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Ho-Chunk casino

Jay Armstrong of Sun Prairie was the not-immediately-so-lucky finder of a $100 bill at the Ho-Chunk hotel and casino in Wisconsin Dells.

Any business that brings in hundreds of millions of dollars a year can probably stand to part with the occasional C-note if it means keeping its word to a longtime customer.

Instead, the Ho-Chunk offered Jay Armstrong $100 worth of perks he was already getting.

Armstong said he and his wife happened upon a hundred-dollar bill outside an elevator on the fourth floor of the Ho-Chunk hotel and casino in Baraboo as they were returning Feb. 4 to their room after breakfast at the resort’s Sunrise Cliffs Cafe.

Armstrong took the bill down to the front desk, where he said he was told that if no one claimed it, it was his.

A little more than an hour later, he said he got a call from Ho-Chunk security saying no one had claimed the money and a review of surveillance video didn’t help find its rightful owner, so if he was still in the area, the money was his.

“Regrettably, I was already home in Sun Prairie,” Armstrong wrote in a timeline of the events surrounding the orphaned cash.

Armstrong said he returned to the hotel on Feb. 16, “however, (the) security person said that I would have to wait for 60 days to claim it. He further indicated that someone would call me after 60 days.”

After 60 days, he said he was told that “since it was over 60 days, the money was sent to the vault.”

“I tried to explain that the whole process didn’t make any sense, but he repeated that there was nothing that he could do about it,” he said.

Armstrong said he went to the hotel again on April 20, when he waited without success for an official from Lost and Found, and wrote a letter to the casino’s general manager on July 7 that garnered no response.

SOS didn’t get any response either to phone and email messages left with the hotel in late July.

After an email to Ho-Chunk Nation vice president Douglas Greengrass, though, David Abangan, public relations manager for the casino and hotel, reached out.

Security folk at the hotel “didn’t know the policy,” he said, which is that no one gets to keep lost items if their rightful owners don’t claim them.

“We do our best to give it to the people who actually lost it,” he said. “There’s people that lose things here a lot.”

He said if the owners of lost money can’t be found, it’s donated to Goodwill or the St. Vincent de Paul charity.

Abangan and Armstrong spoke Aug. 3, when Armstrong said Abangan offered him $100 worth of slot machine play or food at the Ho-Chunk’s Copper Oak steak house, or a free overnight stay at the Ho-Chunk hotel.

Armstrong was less than impressed and turned it down. He’s been getting similar offers once a month from the casino for years and provided SOS with a scanned copy of a Ho-Chunk mailer promising him $50 in gambling, a free night at the hotel and $20 coupons for Ho-Chunk restaurants.

“They actually use it as a promotion to get you to gamble more,” he said of the free gambling offer. “That’s not really the same as a hundred dollar bill.”

Armstrong counter-offered by asking for $300 in free gambling — noting he had made two trips of 108 miles each to the hotel — “and your assurance that all Ho-Chunk employees are informed thoroughly of your Lost and Found policy.”

Abangan said staff has been reminded of the lost and found policy, but he wasn’t budging on the free gambling.

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Chris Rickert is the urban affairs reporter and SOS columnist for the Wisconsin State Journal.