St. Croix Chippewa Tribe casino project seen as a surprise to state

Groundbreaking on the new St. Croix Casino Hertel Express in Webster, Wisconsin, on September 9, 2016. Photo by St. Croix Chippewa Tribe

The St. Croix Chippewa Tribe hosted local and federal dignitaries for a groundbreaking on a new casino last month but the state of Wisconsin was apparently in the dark about the project.

When contacted by The Inter County Leader, the state agency that handles gaming seemed surprised by the work at the St. Croix Casino Hertel Express.

“Are you saying the St. Croix Tribe is opening a new casino?” a spokesperson asked the paper.

According to the paper, it took another day for the Department of Administration to get back. The response seemed rather curious.

"The DOA is aware of the casino expansion. The casino expansion is happening on Indian lands. The land is eligible for gaming," the agency told the paper.

Paragraph 24 of the St. Croix Chippewa Tribe's Class III gaming compact addresses the size and scope of a gaming operation in Webster, Wisconsin.

The response did not resolve the paper's question about the project: is the expansion legal under the tribe's Class III gaming compact? Based on the paper's reading of the agreement, paragraph 24 limits the size of a casino at the Hertel Express in Webster.

But while the casino is being completely redone, it still could comply with the compact. The agreement states the facility must be operated "for commercial purposes other than gaming."

That appears to be the case because the Hertel Express expansion includes a convenience store, a truck stop, a 16-stall RV park and an 850-seat amphitheater.

But the agreement also states that "no more than 50 percent of the square footage of a facility" can be used for gaming. The tribe's press release about the groundbreaking does not disclose the square footage of the complex and The Inter County Leader does not report the square footage either.

The new complex is expected to open by the middle of summer in 2017.

Read More on the Story:
Casino development at Hertel contradicts spirit and intent of state gaming compact (The Inter County Leader 10/3)

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