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Coming soon to Dejope Gaming?

Credit:Jason Joyce

Ever since renovations began at Dejope over the summer, rumors have been swirling about the potential for expanded gaming operations. Formerly run as a bingo hall, the facility has been revamped to accommodate banks of video bingo machines. In recent months, the facility has been rebranded as Dejope Gaming, with promises of major changes on the way.

Dejope has even launched an ad campaign that includes a billboard sporting Vegas-style imagery and announcing that something is "coming soon." Given that Dane County voters rejected a spring 2004 referendum that would allow the expansion of Dejope into a full-fledged casino, what could that be?

The Ho-Chunk Nation, which operates Dejope, hasn't yet announced its plans, and there's not much more than a tease on its website.

Exciting things are in store for Dejope. Shh, we can't say anything just yet, but if you like gaming, you're going to LOVE what's coming! Check back here for a major announcement soon.
There's little more there, aside from two pages of photos (here and here) featuring ongoing renovations inside and outside the building.

More details can be gleaned from the job listings provided by the Ho-Chunk Nation's Department of Personnel. The Nation has been listing numerous positions at Dejope over the autumn, many having to do with handling cash at gaming facilities. The job titles include: cage cashier, cage shift supervisor, slot floor-person, count manager, soft-count associate, and soft-count supervisor. These open spots were included in a Nov. 15 posting by the department.

All of this could simply reflect Dejope's transition from paper-based to electronic bingo. However, with billboards promising a little bit of Vegas on the southeast side of town, there could be a lot more to it. For example, there are the rumors that one new offering will be table poker -- a game that has exploded in popularity (and ubiquitous cable TV coverage) over the last five years.

At the end of September, rumors surfaced that Dejope would be offering table versions of poker, such as Texas Hold'em. Ho-Chunk representatives declined to answer as to whether or not they would be offering these games, but did say an announcement would be made in early 2007. Since then, the rumors have continued, with the speculation focusing upon the regulatory nuances of table poker in terms of both state and federal gaming relationships with the Ho-Chunk Nation.

Dejope is licensed as a Class II gaming facility, a status that limits the range of gambling entertainment and the raison d'etre for the referendum two-and-a-half years ago. If it had passed, it would have allowed the Ho-Chunk Nation to convert the facility to Class III status equivalent to that of its Ho-Chunk, Rainbow and Majestic Pines casinos in Wisconsin Dells, Nekoosa and Black River Falls, respectively.

Instituted by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, Class II gaming facilities are allowed to offer bingo and other games in which players bet solely against one another and are not pitted against the house. Class III gaming, meanwhile, features the repertoire of gambling seen in full-fledged casinos, with slot machines and blackjack leading the way.

While these latter facilities are operated on the basis of a compact between the nation and the state of Wisconsin, Class II gaming does not require a similar regulatory structure.

"Class II games are really a relationship between the tribe and the federal government," says Sean Dilweg, executive assistant to the secretary of the Department of Administration, the state agency that manages the gaming compacts.

Dilweg says poker would not be allowed at the new Dejope Gaming. "What we run into is that table poker is a Class III game, so that this would not be allowed at Dejope." Even though the new video bingo machines at Dejope may look like slot machines, Dilweg continues, they are Class II in status because players are gaming against one another and not against the house.

Isn't poker a game between players, though, and not against the house? Dilweg says "extensive federal case law that has defined what a Class II game is," and reiterates that the department considers poker at Dejope a Class III game.

"Over the summer we checked in with the federal government to make sure that everything is okay, but we have not checked in there to see specifically what they are doing," Dilweg says. "The federal government says that they're only doing Class II games at Dejope."

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