Three major casinos in Atlantic City, N.J., closed last month. Thousands of jobs were eliminated in a city that already has substantial unemployment.
Competition from gambling outlets in nearby Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York was cited for declining Atlantic City casino revenues. The gamblers can play the electronic slots in their home states.
Potential competition and the impact on revenues are issues in Wisconsin as Gov. Scott Walker ponders a proposal by the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin to build a major casino in Kenosha. The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs gave its approval in August 2013.
In Wisconsin, the governor makes the decision on whether to approve additional tribal-run casinos.
Clearly, allowing a casino to be built and operated in Kenosha would create thousands of jobs in the construction trades and in the day-to-day operation of the casino.
Agreements, negotiated by former Gov. Jim Doyle, provided financial protection for the Ho-Chunk tribe and the Forest County Potawatomi tribe in the event of new gambling competition. The Potawatomi, which operates a major hotel and casino in Milwaukee, this summer withheld making its required revenue sharing payment to the state.
Legislators from Kenosha and Racine have expressed frustration at the pace of decision-making on the Kenosha casino. Walker warned the legislators that the state could be facing significant financial problems if a Kenosha casino is approved before new tribal agreements can be reached.
The non-partisan Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau released a report estimating the state is facing a $1.8 billion problem in the 2015-2017 biennium.
Walker said he wants to create a “win for the state financially, a win for the tribal nations involved and a win for the state’s economy – in Kenosha and beyond.”
The toughest part of the Walker goal is creating a win for Milwaukee. His decision will not be announced until after the Nov. 4 election.
Matt Pommer is a veteran correspondent covering the Capitol in Madison. His columns are published with permission from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.