Kenosha City Officials Delay Vote on Hard Rock Casino With Menominee Indian Tribe

Posted on: November 22, 2023, 01:32h. 

Last updated on: November 22, 2023, 12:16h.

The Kenosha City Council, formally the Kenosha Common Council, on Monday opted to postpone voting on a proposed $360 million tribal casino resort.

Kenosha Hard Rock casino Menominee Indian Tribe
The Kenosha Common Council has delayed considering a proposed tribal casino until January 2024. The project comes from the Menominee Indian Tribe in partnership with Hard Rock International. (Image: CBS 58)

City officials were unanimous in their decision to delay voting on the casino project pitched by the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin in partnership with Hard Rock International. Hard Rock is owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, one of the wealthiest sovereign tribal nations in the U.S.

The Menominees want to purchase roughly 60 acres of city-owned land located west of Interstate 94 at 60th St. The tribe, one of 11 federally recognized tribes in the Badger State, claims to have historical ties to Kenosha and is seeking federal, state, and city approval to open a tribal casino there.

Before the tribe can ask the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs to place the land into the federal trust — which would be a requirement for the Menominee people to operate a tribal casino with slot machines and table games — the city must first agree to sell the acreage. On Monday, city officials decided to postpone that decision until January 2024.

Setback, Not Defeat

Since the tribe would seek to have the 60 acres deemed sovereign territory by the federal government, the Menominee Indian Tribe wouldn’t pay taxes on the land.

In exchange for the city agreeing to sell the property, the tribe says it would direct 3% of its gross gaming revenue to the city in perpetuity. The Kenosha City Council earlier this month voted 12-3 in favor of the revenue-sharing arrangement.

Kenosha is asking $15 million for the 60 acres. The Menominee Indian Tribe is partnered with Hard Rock to help bankroll the Kenosha casino should the city agree to allow it to move forward.

In 2022, Hard Rock, which owns and operates commercial and tribal casinos, paid the city $100K for the first rights to buy the land.

Hard Rock would operate the casino and resort on the Menominee’s behalf and share in its revenue and profits. The tribe currently owns and operates the Menominee Casino Resort in Keshena.

Common Council member Holly Kangas, who represents the 4th district, made the motion to defer the decision.

I just don’t think there’s been enough time,” she told her fellow councilors. “There’s been a lack of information. I don’t think the public has enough information and we haven’t had a chance to hear from people.”

Dominic Ruffalo, whose 16th district is where the casino would operate, agreed.

“I’m not anti-casino. I just want people informed,” he said.

Casino Proposal

The Menominee’s Kenosha casino blueprint calls for a 70,000-square-foot casino with 1,500 slot machines and 55 table games. A 150-room hotel and 18,000 square feet of convention space would be accompanied by a Hard Rock Café, buffet, Asian restaurant, and a steakhouse.

The tribe and Hard Rock forecast that the county and city would receive between $12 million and $15 million annually in gaming tax revenue. Along with the city’s 3% share, the casino developers have proposed allocating another 2% to Kenosha County.

The tribe has also pledged to make an annual $750K payment to local public schools and $500K a year to the city’s public museums and an affordable housing program. Both of those payments, however, are conditioned on the casino generating a certain amount of gross gaming revenue.