Las Vegas-Style Gambling May Continue on Indian Reservations in Wisconsin

Las Vegas-style gambling, from slot machines to craps, can continue on Indian reservations in Wisconsin under a state Supreme Court decision released Friday.

The court declined to curtail the gambling allowed on land held by 11 tribes, which operate 28 casinos.

Dairyland Greyhound Park, a Kenosha dog track, had argued that the Indian casinos were illegal because of a 1993 state constitutional amendment limiting gambling. The amendment says all types of gambling are prohibited in Wisconsin except bingo, raffles, pari-mutuel on-track betting and the state-run lottery.

Congress created a legal framework for tribal casinos in 1988, and the tribes in Wisconsin have compacts with the both the federal and state governments to operate them. The dog track argued that the state compacts, under which the tribes make large payments to the state, violated the Wisconsin law.

The high court disagreed.

"The state must honor its contractual obligations in their entirety," the state Supreme Court said in its ruling. It also affirmed the governor's right to renegotiate those contracts.

Dairyland officials did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Indian gambling is big business in Wisconsin. The tribal gambling industry there employs 35,000 people and last year generated $1.2 billion in sales. The state is expecting $114.6 million in payments from the casinos under the compacts this fiscal year.

Nationwide, tribal casinos pulled in $22.6 billion in gambling revenue, twice that of Nevada gambling, according to the National Indian Gaming Association. Currently, 223 Indian tribes in 28 states operate facilities.