Study predicts Wisconsin tribes to lose out from Project Forward

In Wisconsin, a new economic impact study commissioned by the Stockbridge-Munsee Band Of Mohican Indians has reportedly found that the casino-operating tribe stands to lose about 37% of its annual gambling revenues as a result of the Project Forward expansion scheme being implemented by the rival Wisconsin Winnebago Tribe.

According to a report from the Wisconsin State Journal newspaper, the Stockbridge-Munsee Band Of Mohican Indians runs the North Star Mohican Casino And Resort near the small town of Bowler, which is located only 16 miles from the Wisconsin Winnebago Tribe’s Ho-Chunk Gaming Wittenberg casino.

As part of Project Forward, which was announced by the Wisconsin Winnebago Tribe in August before being put into practice a month later, the Wittenberg-based venue is to spend $33 million in order to add an 84-seat restaurant and bar alongside an 86-room hotel while its casino floor will be expanded with the addition of 272 slots and ten gaming tables as well as new high-limit and non-smoking gambling areas.

The study conducted by Chicago-based Market And Feasibility Advisers reportedly found that this single expansion will draw almost $37 million away from other tribes in the Midwestern state every year including $22 million from the Stockbridge-Munsee Band Of Mohican Indians with the Shawano County group now purportedly investigating ways to stop the already underway project.

“We’re investigating all options going forward,” Dennis Puzz, a lawyer for the Stockbridge-Munsee Band Of Mohican Indians, told the Wisconsin State Journal. “If this goes forward, this is our lifeblood, this is our revenue source. If no one is going to step in and enforce the compact, we’re going to be forced to compete.”

The newspaper reported that a September investigation from the Wisconsin Department Of Administration found that Project Forward does not violate the Wisconsin Winnebago Tribe’s compact with the state although the Stockbridge-Munsee Band Of Mohican Indians has asked that officials further investigate the matter. If a resolution can not be reached, the tribe has allegedly declared that it may consider filing a lawsuit.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported that the study additionally found that nine casinos operated by the Forest County Potawatomi Community, the Oneida Nation Of Wisconsin, the Menominee Tribe and the St Croix Chippewa Indians Of Wisconsin would lose a combined $14.7 million in annual revenues as a result of Project Forward while the Wisconsin Winnebago Tribe is set to see takings at two of its other locations drop by $8.3 million a year. However, the investigation purportedly found that these latter deficits would be more than made up by the projected $45 million in additional gaming revenues predicted for the expanded Ho-Chunk Gaming Wittenberg.

The newspaper also reported that Project Forward is set to see the Wisconsin Winnebago Tribe end up with five of the top-ten revenue-generating casinos in Wisconsin while its market share would rise by only one percentage point to 34%.

Although admitting that he is unsure whether anything can be done to mitigate the effects of Project Forward, Rob Cowles from the Wisconsin State Senate told the Wisconsin State Journal that he hopes a resolution can be worked out that does not damage the Stockbridge-Munsee Band Of Mohican Indians.

“They’re already a poor tribe,” Cowles told the newspaper. “I see it as imminently unfair to this tribe. It’s a shame that this was allowed to happen.”

Study predicts Wisconsin tribes to lose out from Project Forward