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Wisconsin group opposes statewide casino expansion

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Opponents of new gambling casinos have announced the formation of a statewide Wisconsin Coalition Against Gambling Expansion.

Chairman Duane Anderson said the coalition was formed to urge legislators and the public to oppose proposals for new tribal casinos that have been proliferating in recent years.

" ... Wisconsin communities have been the targets of slick casino public relations campaigns to entice elected officials to welcome a casino to their town in exchange for promises of millions of dollars, more jobs, and fancy hotels and entertainment complexes," Anderson said.

There are 17 casinos in the state, but gambling groups have targeted 23 new communities for casinos in the past few years. This November, there are casino referendums scheduled in Beloit and La Crosse.

Lt. Gov. Scott McCallum said he has been a longtime opponent of gambling because of its effect on communities.

"Enough is enough. We have enough gambling in Wisconsin," McCallum said. "Gambling does not create wealth. It merely redistributes income. We don't see economic growth coming from gaming."

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Other critics say gambling is a social ill that saps resources from communities and increases crime and bankruptcy. They said the majority of state citizens spoke out against gambling expansion in a 1993 statewide referendum.

In Kaukauna, where voters rejected a proposal to outlaw a new casino complex, Karen Anderson said promises for a waterpark were instrumental in that support.

"I would never bring my children to a waterpark that is attached to a casino," she said.

Dick Matty, spokesman for the Lac du Flambeau Chippewa tribe, said coalition members were making false accusations about bribery and blackmail by casino proponents.

He said that since the Lac du Flambeau began gambling operations on the reservation, both unemployment and crime have dropped.

"A few years ago, our unemployment was at about 75 percent. Today everybody's not working, but we've got it down to 25 percent. That's the kind of achievement we've been able to do," he said.