Hard Rock International Eyes Kenosha, Wisc. For Latest Expansion

Posted on: July 13, 2022, 10:59h. 

Last updated on: July 14, 2022, 02:02h.

Hard Rock International has been expanding rapidly. Now it appears they’re looking to finance and manage a new tribal casino in Kenosha, Wisc., according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Hard Rock Kenosha billboard
A billboard promotes Hard Rock’s potential new casino hotel, above. (Image: Change.org)

Kenosha Landco Co. LLC, a company sharing an address with Hard Rock International, recently agreed to pay up to $100,000 for an option to purchase 60 acres from the Village of Bristol for $15 million. It’s a deal that the newspaper said includes a secrecy clause.

Only a Wisconsin tribe can own a casino in the state, so Hard Rock International, though owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, would need to find a local tribal partner.

The Seminole Tribe has been recently expanding its gaming interests outside Florida, where its new 30-year gaming compact was struck down by a federal court last November. (A federal judge ruled that the tribe’s new online sports betting violated the state constitution and federal Indian gambling law.)

Hard Rock’s Global Expansion

Among its other recent developments, the Seminole Tribe, which owns or operates more than a dozen US and Canadian Hard Rock casinos. It acquired the Mirage Las Vegas last December, and opened the Hard Rock Bristol, Virginia’s first casino, on July 8, 2022. It is also building casinos in Bakersfield, Calif., Rockford, Ill. (about 90 miles from Kenosha) and others in Jamaica and Athens, Greece.

Historically, we do anywhere from 10 to 15 hotels a year and 15 to 20 Hard Rock Cafes a year, so there are some 70 or so different projects that we’re working on to expand the Hard Rock brand at any given time,” Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International and CEO of Seminole Gaming, recently told Travel Weekly.

This would be the second time that Hard Rock International tried opening a tribal casino in Kenosha since Wisconsin legalized gambling in the ’90s, according to the Journal Sentinel. In 2013, Hard Rock International teamed with the Menominee tribe to build an $800 million hotel and casino at Kenosha’s shuttered Dairyland Greyhound Park.

That plan was vetoed by then-Gov. Scott Walker, who was running for president at the time. Critics of the plan included competing tribes and residents worried that a casino would invite crime and other problems into Kenosha.

New Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is considered friendlier to additional casinos, as is the Biden Administration’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Eyes on Bristol

The new casino would be located in the City of Kenosha on a parcel that was part of a land settlement deal more than a decade ago with the Village of Bristol. The deal expanded Kenosha’s western boundary, while giving Bristol the right to profit from the sale of the property.

The Seminoles brought the highest of three offers to the table, which Bristol Village Board president Mike Farrell told the Wisconsin Spotlight website last month was “somewhere between $15 million and $16 million.”

Future use of the land was not mentioned, Farrell told the website.

“It’s simply a land sale,” he said. “The intent is very simply to maximize our return to our taxpayers in the Village of Bristol.”