Judge allows electronic poker at Madison casino

Case might be appealed

Published On: Dec 06 2012 07:52:11 AM CST   Updated On: Dec 06 2012 07:21:28 PM CST
MADISON, Wis. -

A federal judge said the Ho-Chunk tribe can continue to offer electronic poker at its Madison casino.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled an arbitrator exceeded his power and did not have authority to ban the game. The dispute with the state is over how electronic poker is classified. The Ho-Chunk says it's Class II gaming, which the tribe can offer without a compact. The state argues electronic poker is Class III gaming, which does require a compact.

Ho-Chunk Madison said electronic poker brings in a full house of new customers.

"We have our regular slot machines. But this brings in a new group of people, and it's worked out for us very well," said Dave Abangan, Ho-Chunk Madison director of marketing.

The case centers on whether electronic poker is considered Class II or Class III gaming. Only Class II games, where players are playing against each other, are allowed at Ho-Chunk Madison under an agreement with the state.

"That's the difference. It's playing against the house versus playing against other people. All of our games here, you're playing against other people. It's not against the house," Abangan said.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said he opposes electronic poker at the casino.

"We hope the state would be successful in limiting the facility to Bingo," Soglin said. "We're a little distressed as to how broad the definition of Bingo is."

Soglin said he's waiting to see if the state will appeal the federal decision.

"We're going to have to see whether or not they've moved from Class II to Class III," Soglin said. "If that's the case, we'll have to sit down with the state as a partner and see what this means in terms of potential revenue for the city."

In 2004, Madison voters had the opportunity to allow Class III gaming into the area. The referendum failed to pass.

Department of Justice spokeswoman Dana Brueck told the State Journal a decision has not been made on whether to take the case to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.