The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs on Friday shot down a tribal gaming compact amendment that calls for the state to be on the hook for millions of dollars if a Kenosha casino opened and the Potawatomi tribe saw business at its Milwaukee gambling hall fall as a result, according to letters released Friday.
“We have never been presented with a compact or amendment that goes so far as to attempt to guarantee the continued profitability of one tribe’s casino at the expense of another tribe,” BIA head Kevin Washburn wrote in letters to Gov. Scott Walker and Harold Frank, Potawatomi chairman.
Washburn added that a gaming compact is intended to deal with “legitimate regulatory concerns” about Indian casinos. The proposed amendment to the Potawatomi compact, which calls for the tribe to be indemnified against any revenue lost to a proposed $800 million Menominee casino in Kenosha, goes far beyond that.
“Its intent is to protect the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino revenue losses due to competition” from a Kenosha casino, Washburn wrote.
The state and Potawatomi in November sent the BIA the proposed amendment to its 2005 gaming compact that includes protections against it incurring losses to a new off-reservation casino located within 50 miles of the Milwaukee casino. An arbitration panel determined the meaning of the language and how to enforce it. But a lawyer for Walker questioned whether the governor could legally commit the state to help cover any losses at the Potawatomi casino.
The BIA got this right. As I understand it, this absolves the taxpayers or anyone else from making the Potawatomi whole if they lose business due to competition. That’s good. It takes that off the table. I believe the Potawatomi still might be able to withhold its payments to the state because of a provision in its gaming compact, but even that is suspect.
This removes one more barrier to Walker approving the Kenosha casino. Now he just needs to actually do it.