The Federal gaming authorities are investigating Croix Chippewa tribe of Wisconsin over mishandling of casino funds. The tribe operates three casinos in the state and is being charged with 527 violations. If proven correct, the tribe may have to pay over $27 million in fines.
The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) issued the notice on violation in March this year, alleging that the tribe received funds amounting to $1.5 million without proper documentation and receipts. The notice stated that 275 payments amounting to $562,246 were sent to seven members of the tribe. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted that these payments sent between 2015 and 2017 made 527 violations of both tribal and federal ordinances.
The payments were simply described as “consulting fees” or “travel.” The regulators suggest that some of the members who received the payments used the funds to take trips to Hawaii and Las Vegas. If the regulators find the tribe guilty, it could impose fines of more than $27 million. Each of the 527 charges carries huge fines, some going as high as $52,596. However, the tribe will be allowed to appeal against the findings if they want to. The costs of this case could increase if a federal inquiry is also started.
The NIGC is unhappy with the tribe as it has shown “complete disregard” for the rules of the commission. Note that first-class flights were reserved using the credit cards of tribal leaders. There were also some significant payments to businesses and consultants which did not have a contract, record or even a recollection of the services and products they provided to the tribe.
The chairman of the tribe, Lewis Taylor, allegedly received payments totaling $154,173. Another member of the tribe, Elmer Emery received $235,888 while an unnamed member received $526,246. Experts have cited this as unusual behavior in tribal gaming, as it is a very well-regulated sector.
The St. Croix tribe has been living in the northern Wisconsin region for centuries and operate the St. Croix Casino at Turtle Lake. They occupy five main reservations in the state and have two other casino locations at Hertel and Danbury. They also have vested business interests in the region, including RV parks and campgrounds.