Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has put the kibosh on a proposed casino plan, saying that building the venue would simply be too costly to taxpayers to be allowed.
In a statement, Walker said that the state could have been liable for up to $100 million to the Potawatomi tribe, which owns a casino in Milwaukee, because of agreements between the tribe and the state.
Under the compact that governs the agreement between Wisconsin and the Potawatomi tribe, the state is responsible for reimbursing the tribe for any revenue lost to other casinos that open in the state.
“After a comprehensive review of the potential economic impact of the proposed Kenosha casino project, the risk to the state’s taxpayers is too great,” Walker said in a statement. “Due to the compacts negotiated by Governor Doyle, the current cost to taxpayers of approving the proposed casino project is up to $100 million and the long-term economic hit to the state budget would be a potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.”
The new casino, which would have cost about $800 million to build, was to be a joint venture between the Menominee Tribe and Hard Rock, which would have been responsible for operating the casino. The project was approved in 2013 by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but it still needed approval from the governor of Wisconsin before it could go forward.
Casino Supporters See Politics Behind Decision
While Walker said the rejection was a way to protect residents of the state from a financial obligation, the Menominee Tribe saw other motivations behind his decision.
“One tribe, the Forest County Potawatomi and one goal of Governor Walker, the presidency, has led to a ‘no’ for our people,” the tribe said in a statement.
Many political observers believe that Walker could be planning a run at the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2016. The Menominee statement suggested that Walker’s decision was made to placate conservatives who are opposed to casino gambling. One prominent Iowa conservative, Tom Coates, recently wrote a letter to Walker urging him to reject the casino. That letter was also signed by 600 potential caucus voters from Iowa.
Regardless of the motivation behind Walker’s decision, many locals in Kenosha were disappointed in the decision.
“There were people ready to go to work down here, and that’s not going to happen now,” Kenosha Mayor Keith Bosman told WTMJ.
With Kenosha Out of the Way, Beloit Hopes for Federal Attention
It’s possible that Kenosha’s loss could be Beloit’s gain. Supporters of a Ho-Chunk Nation casino in the city hope that the rejection of the Menominee casino could mean that their project will now pass through federal review more quickly.
The city and the tribe have had a preliminary deal in place since 2012, but officials say they were told that the Bureau of Indian Affairs were delaying a decision in part because of the Kenosha proposal. The Ho-Chunk were publicly opposed to the Kenosha project.
Despite the rejection, however, the Menominee say they will soldier on.
“We must remember all the Menominee Nation has overcome in more than 10,000 years,” the tribe said in a statement. “We will continue to thrive as a Nation and will continue to be honorable partners for Indian Tribes in Wisconsin and around the Nation.”