Gov. Scott Walker on Friday killed the Menominee tribe's effort to open an off-reservation casino in Kenosha.
a news release, the governor's office said he was rejecting the bid
because of fears that an agreement with the Potawatomi tribe could
require state taxpayers to pay millions of dollars.
"Due to the
compacts negotiated by Governor (Jim) 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, Walker said in a statement.
compact agreement calls for the Potawatomi tribe to be reimbursed for
any loss of business resulting from the opening of a Kenosha casino. The
Potawatomi operate the state's largest and most lucrative tribal casino
in the state, raking in about $400 million annually.
a new competitor would hurt its own off-reservation casino in
Milwaukee, the Potawatomi tribe has spent millions of dollars fighting
the Kenosha casino.
The governor's action appears to put an end to an effort by the impoverished Menominee tribe that started in the 1990s.
is our belief that this project would have improved the lives of the
nearly 9,000 members of the Tribe," Laurie Boivin, the tribe's
chairwoman said in a statement. "Instead, one tribe — the Forest County
Potawatomi — and one goal of Governor Walker — the presidency — has led
to a no for our people."
Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock
International, which hoped to develop and manage the casino issued a
statement that said: "We believe Hard Rock and (the) Menominee stepped
up to every challenge and then some. This is terribly sad news for the
8,958 members of the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin."
Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the $800 million casino complex in
August 2013. As governor, Walker then had the authority to approve or
reject the project.
Initially, it appeared as if Walker was going
to quickly reject the proposal in 2013, but the prospects brightened
considerably after Hard Rock International agreed to manage and develop
the facility. The company, owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, was
projected to make more than $200 million in fees over seven years.
recent weeks, the tide seemed to turn against the project after an Mike
Huebsch, Walker's secretary of administration and point man on the
issue, said an agreement with the Potawatomi could put the state on the
hook for hundreds of millions of dollars.
The compact the
Potawatomi signed with Doyle in 2005 requires that the tribe be
reimbursed for any losses resulting from the entrance of a new casino
within 50 miles of the tribe's Milwaukee casino. The compact left it to
an arbitration panel to determine how that reimbursement should be paid.
The panel last year said the Menominee would cover the loss but if it failed to do so, the state would be on the hook.
decision was rejected this month by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Still, Huebsch warned this week that taxpayers could still be liable to
cover Potawatomi losses because the Potawatomi was challenging the BIA
Throughout the process, Walker had said he was looking
for "a win-win-win" outcome. But in a memo Huebsch sent the governor
Thursday, he said: "It is important to understand that a win-win-win
scenario is not possible."
In a statement Friday, the Potawatomi
said, "Governor Walker and his administration gave the Kenosha casino
project a thorough review, and we agree with his determination that this
project is not in the best interest of Wisconsin."
statement, Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser said, "Kenosha County
will be fine with or without the casino, but there is no denying that
the casino would have brought an even bigger economic boost to the
Kenosha County community, the region and the state."
that the tribe, unions, local legislators and others who supported the
casino "fought a good fight, but now we need to come together to move
the community forward without this project."
State Rep. Samantha
Kerkman of nearby Powers Lake, the staunchest Republican supporter of
the project, didn't blame Walker for the decision but called it a "true
"I am saddened at the loss of potential for Kenosha County and for the state of Wisconsin," she said in a statement.
Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Somers) said: "The decision made by Governor Walker
to deny a casino in Kenosha is shameful. He has turned his back on the
wishes of a majority of people in Southeastern Wisconsin. It is shameful
that Governor Walker has said no to an $800 million project that would
create thousands of family supporting jobs. Governor Walker ran on
creating jobs in Wisconsin, and now that he is running for president, he
is no longer invested in the Wisconsin comeback."
Journal Sentinel reporters Jason Stein in Madison and Lee Bergquist in Milwaukee contributed to this report.