Wisconsin Governor to Issue Opinion on New Tribal Casino Within a Month
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, now infamous for his successful efforts to strip public unions in the state of collective bargaining rights, has another power to wield, and one that has tribal interests and locals Wisconsinites on the edge of their seats.
The Governor, a a first-term Republican who survived a recall election to hold onto the highest office in America’s Dairyland, says he will decide within 25 days whether a new casino can be built in the city of Kenosha, this according to Fox 6 News in Milwaukee.
The casino, which would be built and operated by the Menominee Indian Tribe, would be a tribal casino however it would not be located on the Menominee reservation.
Proponents point to job potential
Kenosha, a mostly rural town not far from Wisconsin’s border with Illinois, doesn’t have much to offer tourists aside from cheese stands and an outlet mall.
If proponents of casino expansion in the state get their way, soon the city may have a casino that can attract travelers, revenue, and most importantly, say supporters, jobs to the area. Some put the number of new jobs that can be potentially created by the casino at around five thousand.
Opponents of the plan say that these figures are overblown, and point to what they see as an already over-saturated gambling market in the state.
State’s other tribes are opposed to introducing new casino
Though the Governor has the sole decision making power in the matter of the Kenosha casino, it comes as little surprise that he has a lot of support for the project from his loyal conservative Republican base, while there is deep opposition from other tribes in Wisconsin to allowing the Menominee Tribe – reportedly the best-off financially of the state’s eleven Native American tribes – to build another casino that would compete directly with the nearby Potawatomi Bingo Casino.
Potawatomi, a destination for gamblers from Illinois and other surrounding states, is only about an hour’s drive from Kenosha and the site of the proposed new Menominee casino. Potawatomi officials say that a full thirty-five percent of their gamblers are visiting from Illinois, a number they fear would drop precipitously in the face of a newer, closer casino in Kenosha.
Said gambling consultant John Repa, who works with the Potawatomi, “A slot machine is a commodity, and if you could travel 20 miles, as opposed to driving 55 miles, to get to a slot machine, you’re going to do that.”
For his part, Governor Walker says he is sensitive to the fact that adding new casinos creates a potential customer loss situation for those already in existence, and says he will only decide in favor of the Kenosha if there is “no net new gaming.” The Governor did not further elaborate as to how a new casino could be constructed without increasing the state’s gaming capacity.
Illinois would have close competitor if casino expansion takes shape there
Repa told the Daily Herald that not only does Potawatomi worry about a Kenosha casino poaching its customer base, but land-based casino expansion also looms in neighboring Illinois, which would serve to place increased pressure on the property.
Though legislation that would have put five new casinos in the Land of Lincoln failed to gain traction during the spring legislative session, the bill’s sponsors have vowed to revive it this fall. With the state still mired in a pension crisis, there are many in Illinois who wonder if that state’s governor, Democrat Pat Quinn, will soften his historically anti-gambling stance should a casino bill land on his desk.
If the bill that failed earlier this year would have passed, not only would slot machines be installed in the two Chicago-area airports, Midway and O’Hare, but casinos would also be built around the Chicago area, including in the city of Waukegan in far northern Illinois between Milwaukee and Chicago, and close to Kenosha as well.
The city of Waukegan is also home to Illinois State Senator Terry Link, a major proponent of casino expansion in the state of Illinois, who has pushed hard for a casino for the city.