Supporters of Kenosha Casino Urge Governor to Approve Plan
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has yet to make a decision as to whether or not he will approve a new casino plan put forward by the state’s Menominee Tribe.
The tribe is looking to build a Hard Rock-branded casino in Kenosha, a city the southern part of the state close to the border with Illinois.
Governor laid out criteria for approval this week
Governor Walker publicized a letter this week, just the latest in a series of written statements regarding the Kenosha casino, in which he reiterated that before he approves the casino, three criteria must be met.
“The criteria was set in 2011, so there would be an objective way to measure any proposal, whether in Beloit, or Kenosha, or Shullsburg. The three items are simple: 1) Support from the community; 2) Consensus from the 11 tribal governments; and 3) No increase in overall gambling,” Walker wrote.
The Governor has repeatedly said that he wants “no net increase” in gambling in America’s Dairyland, but just what he means by this has never been clarified.
Gaining consensus from Wisconsin’s other tribes is proving a major sticking point; both the Ho-Chunk and Potawatomi Tribes are in staunch opposition to the Kenosha proposal, despite the fact that the Menominee Tribe has proposed paying additional taxes on gambling revenue, a move that would effectively lower the rates for the state’s other tribes, according to CDC Gaming Reports.
Pro-casino groups turned out in state capitol to urge approval
This week also saw a gathering of pro-casino groups in Madison, the state capitol. The parties assembled in order to urge Governor Walker to green-light the Menominee Tribe’s plan to construct a new casino in Kenosha.
The new casino is expected to generate 1,400 short-term jobs during the construction phase, with 3,330 permanent positions to follow once the casino is open.
Said Kenosha Mayor Keith Bosman, “Folks here need jobs.”
Casino could face competition from Illinois properties
Proponents of the Kenosha plan don’t just cite new jobs as a motivator to build the casino, but also point out that in the absence of a new casino property in southern Wisconsin, a new casino could be built in neighboring Illinois that would effectively poach visitors from the Milwaukee casino regardless.
In reality, plans to construct new land-based casinos in Illinois likely do not hinge on the Kenosha development or whatever decision Governor Walker, who successfully survived a recall effort last year, ultimately makes concerning the plan.
Last Spring, a bill that would have put five new brick and mortar casinos in the Land of Lincoln – including one in downtown Chicago – failed to even make it to a vote before the legislative term wrapped up. Despite the bill’s failure, there are many who are still in strong support of introducing additional casinos in Illinois, especially as the state is mired in a crisis concerning its public pension fund, which is in deficit to the tune of some $100 billion, the worst pension deficiency in the nation.
Illinois is in dire need of new sources of revenue, and though Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is not one of them, there are many in the state who believe that casino revenue is a viable option. Whether Wisconsin adds a new casino is most likely of little concern to both supporters and those against Illinois casino expansion.
The Illinois casino bill would have permitted the erection of a new casino in north suburban Lake County, a location very close to the proposed Kenosha Hard Rock Casino.
The sponsor of the casino expansion bill in the Illinois House of Representatives, State Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island), has said he wants to revive the legislation, and even held a hearing last month to further explore opposition to the bill.
Rita has remarked, however, that he doubts the casino plan will be back on Illinois lawmakers’ dockets in an abbreviated Fall session that is crowded with other important legislation, including a possible resurfacing of a bill to legalize same sex marriage as well as the pressing matter of the state’s pension shortfall.