Hard Rock Casino Kenosha Project Heads to Feds, Gains Local Support

Posted on: January 18, 2024, 12:52h. 

Last updated on: January 19, 2024, 11:41h.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Kenosha has officially gained the local support needed to carry on with the Wisconsin tribal gaming project.

Hard Rock Kenosha Wisconsin casino
The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin is a major step closer to expanding its gaming business. The tribe and development partner of Hard Rock wants to open a casino in Kenosha. (Image: NBC 26)

The Kenosha County Board of Supervisors narrowly voted 10-9 to approve the $360 million enterprise during its Tuesday, January 16 meeting. The outcome came during the early morning hours of January 17 after the meeting started late and ran for several hours, with the supervisors finally casting their votes around 1 a.m. local time.

With the county supervisors’ backing, the Hard Rock project can move to the federal level. The casino earlier this month fielded the support of the Kenosha Common Council through an 11-6 vote.

Hard Rock Kenosha is a project from the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin in partnership with Hard Rock International, which is owned by the Seminole Tribe in Florida.

Federal Approval Next

The Menominee Tribe wants to expand its gaming footprint and add to its economic sovereignty that’s currently driven by its Menominee Casino Resort in Keshena.

The project required local approval because the tribe is seeking to build the Hard Rock casino on 60 acres of land west of Interstate 94 at 60th St. that’s currently owned by the city. The property was formerly the Dairyland Greyhound Park racetrack.

With the county and city signing off on selling the land to the tribe for $15 million, the Menominee Tribe must now gain federal approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and its Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Menominees have historical ties to the area, which is required for the Interior Department to take newly acquired lands into the federal trust.

If the DOI places the land into the trust, the Menominees would conclude the authorization process with Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D), who would need to agree to extend the tribe’s Class III gaming compact to the Kenosha facility. Evers is open to that, saying in 2022 that “tribal nations of Wisconsin have the right” to operate casinos on their sovereign lands.

Outside of Wisconsin, Kenosha is unfortunately perhaps best known for the unrest that rocked the city in August 2020, when nightly confrontations with law enforcement, including rioting and arson, occurred. The unrest was highlighted by Kyle Rittenhouse’s August 25 shootings of three people, with a 36- and 26-year-old being killed. Rittenhouse was later acquitted of all charges, including two counts of homicide.

Casino Details

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino would join more than a dozen Hard Rock casinos in the U.S., but would be the first in Wisconsin.

The project entails a casino floor with 1,500 slot machines and 50 table games, plus a Hard Rock Bet Sportsbook. The resort would include 150 rooms, seven restaurants and a Hard Rock Café, a 2,000-seat Hard Rock Live concert venue, an 8,500-square-foot ballroom, and retail shopping.

Hard Rock says the resort would employ more than 1,000 people on annual wages of $54K.

Wisconsin is home to only tribal casinos, not commercial gaming resorts. The Badger State has more than two dozen casinos and gaming halls owned by Native American communities. The largest gaming tribes in the state are the Oneida and Ho-Chunk nations.