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Lawsuit Aims to Curb Wisconsin Tribe's Electronic Poker Games

A federal lawsuit filed by the state Attorney General is attempting to shut down electronic poker games played at the Ho-Chunk Casino in Madison, Wisconsin.

The case centers around a dispute between Wisconsin authorities and the Ho-Chunk tribe. An arbitrator’s ruling last year determined that the compact agreement between the parties does not permit poker at the tribe’s land-based operation in Madison, the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reported. However, U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb later vacated that order. Crabb ruled that the arbitrator overstepped his authority to make such a determination, allowing electronic poker games to resume.

That angered the Attorney General’s office, who promptly filed papers seeking an injunction. “Poker, including the form of poker being offered at (the Madison facility), is not explicitly authorized and is explicitly prohibited by the laws of the State of Wisconsin,” the complaint read.

The Ho-Chunk tribe points to the fact that poker differs from other casino games in that gamblers compete against one another and the casino has no preference in the outcome, merely collecting a rake for hosting the games. Tribal leaders believe electronic poker falls under the state’s Class II gaming statute, which would allow electronic poker to be offered without a compact agreement. The state argues that poker is a Class III game that requires a compact.

The classification of poker and casino games is in accordance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The Ho-Chunk tribe has several gaming locations throughout the state. Some are permitted to offer slot machines, craps and roulette, while others are restricted to Class II games such as bingo.

Electronic poker speeds up the game as players compete in a live setting. Players are dealt cards automatically that are displayed on private screens. A large screen available to all players provides general information. Some casinos are in favor of the practice due to the increased revenue seen from a greater number of hands dealt per hour. It also reduces labor costs by negating the need for a live dealer.



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Charles Rettmuller

Charles has been an avid poker player for a number of years, both live and online. He holds a degree in journalism and previously worked as a reporter for a Chicago-based newspaper. Charles joined the PokerUpdate team in early 2012 and writes daily news articles for the site.