Potawatomi casino officials look into off-track betting

Milwaukee, Wisconsin (AP) 1/08

Potawatomi casino officials have been negotiating with out-of-state tracks to simulcast their races and take bets on them at the Menomonee Valley facility, a spokesman for the Forest County Potawatomi tribe says.

“It’s allowed in the (tribe’s state gambling) compact, and the customers have been asking for it,” Ken Walsh said, adding that off-track betting could begin this year when the casino completes its $240 million expansion.

The Oneida casino near Green Bay and the Ho-Chunk casino near Baraboo already offer off-track betting.

Such a move could affect the financially struggling Dairyland Greyhound Park, where the $53.7 million wagered last year included $38.9 million on simulcast races run at more than 50 horse, harness and dog tracks. The 2006 total of $57.9 million included $40.6 million bet on simulcast races.

“We’re not in the business of being in the casino industry,” said Roy Berger, Dairyland executive vice president. “Where on earth do they come off taking what little sliver of the market we have left?”

The track lost $2.8 million in 2006, the latest for which figures were available.

Berger said attempts by Dairyland, the state’s only dog track, to offer slot machines to compete with Indian casinos have been rejected, while the state gave tribes the go-ahead to compete with Dairyland.

In 2003, when the state agreed to allow the Potawatomi and other tribes to offer off-track betting, Potawatomi officials assured then-state administration secretary Marc Marotta that they would not offer simulcasting as long as Dairyland stayed in business. Marotta said the tribe wanted the authority to offer simulcasting in the event the track closed.

But Walsh said the situation is different now.

For one thing, he said, the original compact gave the tribe exclusive rights to offer casino games within 50 miles but that provision was later eliminated by the federal government.

Walsh also noted that Dairyland has unsuccessfully challenged the legality of Indian casinos in court.

“A lot of things have happened since then, including Dairyland’s efforts to end Indian gaming – continued efforts,” Walsh said.

An application is pending at the U.S. Department of Interior for Dairyland to sell its facility to the Menominee tribe.

Berger said that, if the Potawatomi offered off-track betting, it would not force the dog track to close. The track would rather consider adding services such as an entertainment complex, he said.