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Potawatomi could lose slot machines in dispute with state

MILWAUKEE (WSAU-Wheeler News)  The Potawatomi tribe might lose almost two-thousand slot machines at its casino in Milwaukee, if it keeps refusing to pay its annual fee to the state. That's according to letters obtained by the Journal Sentinel. It reports that Potawatomi chairman Gus Frank told Governor Scott Walker that the tribe's estimated $25-million annual fee is paid in exchange for not allowing any other casinos within 50 miles. Frank reportedly wrote that if Walker approves the Menominee tribe's Hard Rock casino in Kenosha, the Potawatomi's fee would amount to an illegal tax.

That letter was written on July 9. Two weeks later Walker special attorney Lance Boldrey said if the Potawatomi wins its case, additional gaming approved in 2003 by former Governor Jim Doyle would be voided. And the casino would be limited to having 1,000 slots and video poker machines instead of its present 3,000, with the compact to expire in 2019.

Tribal spokesman Ken Walsh tells the Journal Sentinel called the governor's warning "attorney bluster." Walker told lawmakers on Tuesday that the Potawatomi's refusal to pay its fee could put a crimp into the state budget.

Earlier yesterday state and local leaders from Kenosha held a news conference to urge Walker to approve the casino, saying it would create thousands of new jobs. Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he wants to make sure the casino will be successful enough for its owners to keep their promise to off-set losses at other casinos in the region.