“After a comprehensive review of the potential economic impact of the proposed Kenosha casino project, the risk to the state’s taxpayers is too great,” Walker said. “Due to the compacts negotiated by Governor (Jim) Doyle, the current cost to taxpayers of approving the proposed casino project is up to $100 million and the long-term economic hit to the state budget would be a potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.”
The Menominee Tribe expressed disappointment with Walker’s decision and said the Kenosha casino project would have improved the lives of the tribe’s nearly 9,000 members.
“Instead, one tribe – the Forest County Potawatomi and one goal of Governor Walker – the presidency, has led to a no for our people,” the Menominee Tribe’s statement said. “The tribe and our partners at Hard Rock International will meet in the next few days to discuss any options we have. Until then – we must remember all the Menominee Nation has overcome in more than 10,000 years – we will continue to thrive as a nation and will continue to be honorable partners for Indian Tribes in Wisconsin and around the nation.”
The Forest County Potawatomi Community’s Milwaukee casino is the only casino in southeastern Wisconsin. The Potawatomi strongly opposed the proposed Kenosha casino.
“Governor Walker and his administration gave the Kenosha casino project a thorough review, and we agree with his determination that this project is not in the best interest of Wisconsin,” the Potawatomi tribe said.
Walker’s decision comes a day after the Potawatomi announced that it filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior on the grounds that the Bureau of Indian Affairs exceeded its legal authority in denying the tribe’s proposed gaming compact amendment that would have required the state to reimburse the tribe for any losses incurred at its Milwaukee casino if a competing casino is opened in Kenosha.
Although Walker said he needed to protect the state against being held responsible for any economic losses incurred by the Potawatomi if the Kenosha casino was built, the Menominee Tribe announced Thursday that it had agreed in its recent compact amendment to post a bond to protect Wisconsin taxpayers from any revenue losses incurred by Milwaukee casino. Under that compact amendment the Menominee Tribe agreed to pay the state $1 billion over the 25-year life of the compact, if the tribe was allowed to build a casino in Kenosha.
The Menominee intended to partner with Hard Rock International and its parent company, The Seminole Tribe of Florida, to develop the $800 million Hard Rock Hotel and Casino project at the former site of Dairyland Greyhound Park. The proposed project included a 100,000-square-foot gaming floor with 3,100 slot machines, 75 table games, a 5,000-seat multi-purpose entertainment venue, 50,000 square feet of retail space, restaurants and a 400-room hotel.
Some prominent social conservatives in Iowa said Walker, a potential candidate for president, could lose support in the state if he approved a casino in Kenosha. Walker’s critics seized on that threat in criticizing his decision to reject the Kenosha casino.
“This is an economic mistake of colossal proportions,” said state Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha. “As far as I can tell, this is the largest economic opportunity ever passed up by a governor in any state. Gov. Walker is turning down not only up to 10,000 good-paying jobs but also millions of new tourists and other significant economic development opportunities associated with this project – something that on a total bipartisan basis business leaders, local elected officials, community leaders and the citizens of Kenosha and Racine counties have recognized for years. I can’t help but wonder if the recent opposition of many Iowa conservative leaders played a role in the governor’s decision. If so, Gov. Walker has once again prioritized his own presidential ambitions over creating jobs and restoring economic opportunity in our state. The governor can no longer claim jobs and tourism are his top priorities, but perhaps pleasing Iowa conservatives are.”
Walker and his supporters are blaming former Gov. Doyle for gaming compacts that Doyle negotiated with the Potawatomi and other tribes saying those compacts made the Kenosha casino a risky financial proposition for the state.
“I am extremely disappointed in Governor Walker’s decision today,” said state Assembly Speaker Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester. “This is a huge loss to the Racine and Kenosha area. We all have a right to be angry and frustrated that we will not gain thousands of jobs, and an $800 million development will be lost. Unfortunately, we really have one person to blame, and that is Jim Doyle, for forcing the state into this no-win situation.”