MADISON - Four state legislators from Kenosha and Racine are putting their support behind a casino project in Kenosha being proposed by the Menominee Nation.
State Sen. John Lehman of Racine, along with state Reps. Peter Barca and Tod Ohnstad of Kenosha and Rep. Cory Mason of Racine, wrote a letter to Gov. Scott Walker supporting the project. Amid opposition from some of the state’s Native American tribes, Walker has said he will decide by the end of the week whether to allow the project.
In the letter, the four Democrats argue that if the project is rejected, a competing casino would likely be built in Illinois.
“We appreciate the concerns raised by casino opponents and recognize the importance of Wisconsin’s other tribes’ input, but hope you will agree that Wisconsin would be far better served by bringing these jobs and this economic activity into our communities rather than allowing them to go over the border,” the letter reads.
The Menominees' $800 million partnership with Hard Rock International includes a hotel and restaurant.
Menominee chairman Craig Corn said Monday evening that he expects his tribe will be able to convince Walker to approve their casino. The Menominee Nation plans to meet with Walker on Wednesday, the day after a deadline that he set in August. The Menominee say the project would create 3,300 jobs and provide the state with $35 million in annual payments.
Walker held a meeting last week involving the Menominee, the Potawatomi and the Ho-Chunk. The Potawatomi and the Ho-Chunk still say they will not support the casino because it will hurt their tribes financially.
The Ho-Chunk have five gaming halls in central and western Wisconsin. Spokesperson Collin Price said the tribe's research shows it could lose around $20 million if the new casino is built. Meanwhile, the Forest County Potawatomi reiterated their opposition with a statement on Monday afternoon, citing the project’s “history with corrupt individuals” and saying it would “end up sending hundreds of millions of dollars to the-out-of state gambling interests invested in the project.” The tribe operates a casino in Milwaukee.
In a statement Tuesday, Corn said, "Many times I have reached out to the Ho-Chunk and Forest County Potawatomi asking them to join us in dialogue. It's what the Governor asked for and we agree it's the right thing to do. The Menominee are confident that the benefits of a Kenosha Casino to the state are too good to turn down."
Last week, the Menominee reached an agreement with the Oneida Nation for its support. If the Kenosha casino is built, the Oneida will have a role in banking services, marketing strategies, and future business associations.
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