Years away

    Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm

    Although Kenosha’s voters gave their approval last November for the Menominee Tribe to build a new $808 million casino and entertainment complex on the current grounds of the Dairyland Greyhound Park, it could still be years before the tribe is able to break ground on the proposed project.
    The Menominee are asking the Bureau of Indian Affairs to put the 233-acre site into a trust on behalf of the tribe, but several things need to occur before that request is granted.
    Laurie Boivin, vice chairwoman of the tribe, said the Menominee submitted documents to the bureau in July, before the latest Kenosha referendum was held. She and other tribal officials are now waiting for Kenosha County and City of Kenosha officials to approve an inter-governmental agreement with the tribe.
    The Menominee Legislature approved the agreement in early December, she said.
    "It’s at the city and county level, and we’re waiting for them to get it out to their individuals and have their meetings," Boivin said.
    Kenosha County officials said the county’s corporation counsel office is working with Perkins & Coie, a Washington, D.C., law firm, to evaluate the agreement.
    "That was the piece that they were all waiting for," she said. "We’re hoping we will have their approvals in February or early March."
    The proposed inter-governmental agreement calls for the tribe to pay the city and county 3 percent of its net profits for its first eight years of operations. After those eight years, the tribe would pay 4 percent of its net win to both municipalities for 20 years, and the proposal calls for the arrangement to be renegotiated thereafter.
    The proposed agreement also says the tribe will pay $1.5 million every year to the Kenosha Unified School District.
    The city is set to pay the district $500,000 for capital projects each year, with the county giving $500,000 to Kenosha districts west of Interstate 94 every year.
    Once approved, the agreement and an environmental impact study of the property, which is being done now, must be sent to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Those are the final documents needing to be sent to the agency.
    The agency must then decide if the casino is in the best interest of both the tribe and the Kenosha area, and will approve or deny it.
    If that approval is granted, the agreement would then be sent to the governor’s desk for final approval.
    "We put in the timelines that we would hope to have the approvals by the end of the year," Boivin said. "But so many things could happen."
    The Menominee’s proposal calls for a three-stage project to be constructed over about three years. When finished, it would include 3,100 slot machines, 75 table games and wagering on live and simulcast racing.
    The casino and entertainment center could also house a 5,000-seat entertainment facility, several restaurants, a 400-room hotel, retail shops and an indoor water park.
    Although the Menominee believe final approval for their casino is up to two years away, Boivin said they have made plans to convert the current Dairyland Greyhound Park into temporary gaming stations. Those temporary plans include having 1,000 slot machines, 50 table games and betting on races, as well as current amenities at the dog track.
    The Menominee Tribe has been working for several years to establish its casino on the site of the Dairyland track for many reasons, Boivin said.
    "The site is very attractive, and it’s an existing gaming site," Boivin said. "It doesn’t hurt that I-94 runs right next to it. It’s pretty close to the Illinois border, and there’s a huge population in that area."
    Boivin also said the Menominee Tribe does have historic ties to the area, and its gaming compact to operate a current casino on reservation land northwest of Green Bay contains language indicating that the tribe could operate a gaming facility in the Kenosha area, if granted approvals.
    The opportunity to expand the tribe’s gaming programs is needed, Boivin said, because of harsh economic realities for many of the tribe’s 8,100 members, about half of whom live on its reservation.
    "We have huge unmet needs," Boivin said. "We’re one of the largest tribes in the state, but we’re also one of the poorest."
    If the casino project gains approval, she said the tribe will use a large amount of the proceeds to replace water and wastewater systems on its reservation, improve its law enforcement forces and facilities, build a new K-8 school and hire more teachers, build a new recreation center and build a new health clinic and provide health insurance for all tribal members.
    February 4, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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