The St. Croix Chippewa Indian operate three gaming facilities in Wisconsin, including one in Danbury. Photo: Tony Webster

St. Croix Chippewa Tribe accused of numerous violations of gaming laws

The St. Croix Chippewa Indians are facing millions of dollars in fines and penalties for allegedly violating gaming laws at the tribe's casinos in Wisconsin.

A notice of violation (NOV) issued by the National Indian Gaming Commission on April 11 lists a whopping 527 violations of federal and tribal laws and regulations. A large number of violations center on payments that were made to the "same small group of people" -- including the chairman and other tribal leaders -- without adequate documentation.

According to the notice, 275 such payments were made to just seven individuals over a period of two years, all in violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and other laws and regulations. The payments totaled at least $1.5 million.

"Each of these 275 payments is an improper use of net revenue and, therefore, is a violation of IGRA, NIGC regulations, and the tribe's gaming ordinance," the 29-page notice reads.

Tribal leaders and officials did not return The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's requests for comment on the notice of violation. But Jeff Cormell, the tribe's former general counsel, told Wisconsin Public Radio that he warned them against approving such payments.

"Based upon legal advice they’d been getting from multiple sources not just from me, they either knew or should have known that the process in which they were acting was unlawful," Cormell told WPR. He said he resigned last fall due a "hostile work environment" that emerged around the advice he gave.

According to the NIGC, notices of violation are typically issued only after a letter of concern is sent to a tribe. But the circumstances at St. Croix were considered particularly egregious by Chairman Jonodev Chaudhuri, the leader of the independent federal agency.

"In this case, however, the given the pervasiveness and serious nature of the violations, coupled with the fact that many of the individuals identified in the NOV are still in a position to direct casino and net gaming revenues, the chair has decided to proceed directly with a Notice of Violation," the document reads.

A review of some recent NOVs and enforcement actions indicate most tribes were cited for only one or a few violations, far less than that seen at St. Croix. In all of 2018, three tribes entered into settlement agreements after addressing alleged violations of federal and tribal laws and regulations.

The St. Croix Chippewa Indians operate three St. Croix Casinos in the western part of Wisconsin. The facilities have seen a number of expansion and upgrades in recent years

Read More on the Story
St. Croix Chippewa officials pocketed or misspent at least $1.5 million in casino cash, regulators charge (The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel April 19, 2019)
St. Croix Chippewa Accused Of Embezzling $1.5M From Casino's Gaming Revenue (Wisconsin Public Radio April 19, 2019)

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