Wisconsin Tribe’s $360M Hard Rock Kenosha Casino Resort Gives Details

Posted on: December 23, 2023, 01:22h. 

Last updated on: December 25, 2023, 10:51h.

The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin wants to spend $360 million to open a casino resort in Kenosha through a partnership with Hard Rock International, the gaming and hospitality conglomerate owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Wisconsin Kenosha casino Hard Rock Menominee
After the Kenosha City Council postponed a vote on selling land to the Menominee Indian Tribe for a Hard Rock casino, the tribe is publicizing its resort plans in hopes of winning over councilors. The council is expected to reconsider the land sale in January. (Image: CBS 58)

The Menominee Indians this week revealed details of the proposed casino resort during an interview with Kenosha News.

Tribal leaders divulged that the 70,000-square-foot casino would include around 1,500 slot machines and electronic table game positions, 55 live dealer table games, and a sportsbook. The hotel would feature 150 guest rooms with a spa, multiple restaurants highlighted by a Hard Rock Café, and a convention center.

Construction would take 18 to 24 months upon receipt of federal, state, and local approvals.

We feel the atmosphere is right for us to bring the project forward again,” said Joey Awonohopay, chairman of the Menominee Kenosha Gaming Authority. “The plan is to build it all out immediately. Our intent is to secure funding to build it all out.”

In 2015, the tribe pitched a larger casino in Kenosha for $800 million. but the project was rejected by then-Gov. Scott Walker (R). The governor said “the risk to the state’s taxpayers is too great” in refusing to expand the state’s Class III gaming compact that is required for the tribe to operate slots and table games.

Details Demanded

Before the Menominee Indians can break ground on their proposed Hard Rock Kenosha casino resort, which would supplement the tribe’s gaming portfolio that currently includes the Menominee Casino Resort in Keshena, the City of Kenosha must agree to sell 60 acres of city-owned land to the tribe. The Kenosha City Council last month delayed its decision about selling the property, located west of Interstate 94 at 60th St., until the new year. The tentative purchase price is $15 million.

City councilors expressed concerns about not having adequate information about the project. Councilor Holly Kangas said in her vote to postpone that there’s “been a lack of information” about the plan.

If the city does sell the land to the Menominee people, the tribe would then need the federal government to place it into trust. If the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs agrees that the Menominee have historical ties to the land, the tribe would then need to establish a new Class III gaming compact with Gov. Tony Evers (D).

Diversifying Kenosha

Menominee tribal leaders believe the city should support the casino because Hard Rock would give new reasons for people to visit the Wisconsin town.

We are bringing something unique to the area,” Awonohopay said. “The overall entertainment and the class that Hard Rock brings to the area is something that’s currently not here.”

As for opponents who say a Hard Rock casino would lead to problem gambling and societal issues, Awonohopay said much of the city is already participating responsibly.

“Does Kenosha have a gambling problem right now from people going to the bars and playing slot machines? Are people addicted to [lottery] scratch-off tickets?” Awonohopay asked.

Technically, there are no slot machines inside bars. But instead, many restaurants/bars, convenience stores, and other businesses offer so-called “no-chance” gaming terminals.

The machines tell the player if the next spin will win or lose. Backers of the controversial terminals say that removes the element of chance. State courts continue to deliberate their legality.