Walker delays Kenosha casino decision

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Photo by Rebecca Rebholz/[email protected]

About a month after his self-imposed deadline, Gov. Scott Walker still has not decided on the proposal for the Hard Rock Casino in Kenosha County.

Walker brought up the possibility of hiring a third-party consultant to evaluate the job growth the casino, which is proposed by the Menominee tribe, would produce for the area. Officials at the Potawatomi Bingo Casino, located about a mile from Marquette, expressed concern over the possible loss of business if the Kenosha casino is approved. Walker also said he would prefer those involved to refrain from advertising their stances on radio and television while he makes a decision.

The delay in Walker’s decision is rumored to appear as a positive sign for the Menominee tribe, as the Potawatomi and Ho-Chunk tribes pushed for a quick decision from the governor. George Ermert, a spokesperson for the Potawatomi, said the delay is merely the governor taking his time with the decision and doesn’t indicate any favor.

“The Potawatomi views (the delay) as the governor taking his time to give thorough and deliberate evaluation of this important issue,” Ermert said. “At the end of the day, the Potawatomi feels that he’ll find this project does not fit his criteria and is not in the best interest of Wisconsin.”

Ermert said the tribe’s view on the casino remains unchanged because it fears the negative impact it will cause in Milwaukee.

“You have actual jobs, not promised jobs, that will be lost in Milwaukee,” Ermert said. “This isn’t going to bring any benefit to the state of Wisconsin. The Kenosha Casino folks have signed a number of agreements with out-of-state interests that is going to allow hundreds of millions of dollars to be shipped out of Wisconsin, not staying here.”

Gary Besaw, the chairman of the Menominee-Kenosha Gaming Authority, said this casino will be a boost to the region, drawing national entertainment and a wide variety of audiences.

“To develop a true destination entertainment center was exactly what our intentions were,” Besaw said. “By bringing in Hard Rock, you’re going to see this as a place that grows the whole region, not just Kenosha.”

The casino is projected to generate more than 3,300 jobs with an additional 1,500 construction jobs, Besaw said. Although Potawatomi is worried about the loss of thousands of jobs in Milwaukee, Besaw said their studies show only a loss of about 200 jobs, but added there would be a provision in place to reserve jobs at the Kenosha casino specifically for residents of Milwaukee.

“We will set aside 10 percent of jobs in Kenosha for Milwaukee County,” Besaw said. “That’s just a minimum. Milwaukee would actually grow workers as opposed to lose workers.”

Throughout the entire process, Besaw said he and his group tried to be as open as possible about the positives and negatives of the casino.

“We want to make sure people know all aspects of it,” Besaw said. “We’re not hiding anything. If we’re honest, fair and open, then people will trust us.”

Although both tribes have not yet heard when Walker will make a decision, they do expect the issue to be resolved within the coming months. If it is not, federal law gives Walker up to a year to decide. Walker could also ask for an extended delay if he still has not approved the casino by next August.