It was meant to be a savior to the community of Kenosha and surrounding areas. It was meant to raise a tribe out of poverty. It was meant to serve 10,000 jobs to a society in great need. But what was meant to be is no more. Plans for a casino in Kenosha were abolished by Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin yesterday when he announced that he would not be approving the Menominee Tribe’s proposal.
The casino in Kenosha has been the hottest topic in Kenosha County since Dairyland Greyhound Park announced its impending closure in late 2009. In that same five-year span, the city of Kenosha suffered many more industrial losses. Alpha Lovell, American Brass, Mack White’s, the Chrysler plant; the entire manufacturing industry has been windswept, leaving Kenosha with little more than warehouses to employ the locals.
Needless to say, the expected establishment of a resort-style casino in Kenosha was thought to be the area’s savior. But alas, thanks to what Eric Olson (who spent years helping develop the casino project) called “basically, the wipe of a pen”, it’s all gone.
Gov. Walker defended his actions by claiming that he was saving the tax payers over $100 million, and then some. That’s because the Potawatomi Tribe signed a compact with former Gov. Jim Doyle 10 years ago. Part of that deal included the state having to pay a minimum $100mm to the tribe if another casino was allowed to open within competitive distance of their Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee, which happens to be 35 miles from the location of the intended casino in Kenosha. Additional money would also be paid in future years if the Potawatomi lost revenue due to a new casino.
“In the end, what it really boils down to is there are more than 100 million reasons we had to make this decision, and they all fall firmly on the lap of Governor Jim Doyle,” said Gov. Walker, sweeping all of the blame onto the shoulders of his predecessor.
That wasn’t good enough for the Menominee Tribe, whose 9,000 members were betting on the casino in Kenosha as a much needed lifeline. The impoverished tribe ranks worst in the state for overall quality of health and has the highest mortality, obesity, unemployment, single-parent and violent crime rates.
“Try to address all of those social issues that you just, that we do know so well — that was what the goal was. I believe the real facts were not looked at and a huge injustice was done,” said Laurie Boivin, Chairwoman of the Menominee Tribe in an exclusive interview with Mike Lowe of Fox6. “It’s a near fatal blow.”
The $800 million Kenosha casino project was designed to closely mimic the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida in terms of size, trade and amenities. Jim Allen, CEO of Hard Rock International, had teamed up with the Menominee Tribe in planning for the casino in Kenosha. The 100+ acre property would have presented much more than a casino and Hard Rock Café, with blueprints providing for multiple restaurants, retail outlets, and a concert hall.
Just 72 hours before Gov. Walker signed the papers, a plea came from the Menominee Tribe, promising to cover any losses suffered by the Potawatomi. Even Hard Rock International was willing to cover future losses with the posting of a $250 million bond.
But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.