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Wisconsin Supreme Court to Rule on Dairyland Lawsuit

A death sentence for the Wisconsin's 28 casinos and mini-casinos - exactly what the Dairyland owners asked for when they filed suit in 2001 - "would be a huge, huge stretch," said Roy Berger, Dairyland's vice president.

Not even the Dairyland Greyhound Park racetrack owners, who brought a longstanding lawsuit to an end, expect a ruling that will go that far. But plan on some legal fireworks when the state Supreme Court finally issues its decision in the case that seeks to change the odds in the state's gambling industry. The court's term formally ended Friday, but is still has about a dozen cases to decide.

Dairyland, the state's sole surviving pari-mutuel racetrack, still is looking for a foothold in the casino business. In Wisconsin, casino gambling is legal only on tribal trust land. It's a business that's grown from small change a decade ago to over $1.2 billion last year.

"It would be unrealistic to think the Native American gaming industry is going to go away because of this decision," Berger said, even if the high court tilts toward Dairyland's view that Wisconsin's casinos have grown beyond what state voters had in mind in approving a 1993 constitutional amendment restricting gambling.

Instead of advocating obliterating the industry, which now boasts 35,000 direct and indirect jobs in the state, Dairyland argues that the court should perhaps turn back the legal clock to 1998.

That would reimpose old limits on casinos - no roulette, craps or poker anywhere and fewer slot machines at the state's biggest grossing casino in Milwaukee, operated by the Forest County Potawatomi tribe.

In Berger's dream scenario, such a ruling would be quickly followed with a move in the Legislature to amend the state constitution once more, this time permitting casino games at the Dairyland track in Kenosha. Tavern owners and perhaps others also would likely seek a piece of action, after years of futile efforts to crack into the casino market.

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