September 21, 2014

Hard Rock enters Kenosha casino process

Who wouldn’t want to own a Hard Rock Kenosha t-shirt? The question was posed by Menominee Tribal Chairman Craig Corn at Thursday’s announcement of an agreement with Hard Rock International to develop a casino and entertainment project at the former Dairyland dog track in Kenosha.

At a news conference to officially announce the deal, Jim Allen, the Chairman of Hard Rock International, said the company, which is owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, is among the most successful and most recognized brands in the world. He said if the OK is given, they are convinced the Kenosha project will be successful. “This is a project that we are 100 percent convinced we can design, build and finance,” Allen said. “We are hopeful that we will gain Governor Walker’s support.”

Governor Scott Walker has maintained since taking office that he would only approve new casinos if there were no objections from the rest of the state’s tribes, and no net increase in gambling in the state. He said Thursday that he was continuing to talk to tribes including the Menominee, Potawatomi and Ho Chunk. “As I mentioned all along they have a 60 day window to make the case based on the criteria I set out two and a half years ago,” Walker said. “If they want to include that (agreement with Hard Rock) to make their case, I’ll certainly look at it.

Hard Rock’s Allen noted that the Menominee already have a signed compact with the state that would mean millions of dollars in payments. “We believe the balance of the term could bring over $600 million to the state,” he said. “That’s just the direct payments. That doesn’t include the ripple effect of all the vendors business, and obviously the reduction in unemployment.” The Menominee have pledged to hire from the local labor force first, for both construction and permanent jobs. Kenosha’s most recent unemployment rate was 8.2 percent.

Forest County Potawatomi spokesman Ken Walsh released a statement following the press conference in Kenosha.

Today’s news is more of the same from Kenosha as yet another out-of-state interest becomes part of the deal. The Kenosha casino won’t even been run by a Wisconsin tribe. 

Out of state gambling interests from Connecticut, Alabama and now Florida will be making millions of dollars while Milwaukee loses jobs. Wasn’t the point of Wisconsin gaming to help Wisconsin, not out-of-state interests?

Governor Scott Walker has been consistent and clear from the start with all Wisconsin tribal leaders and the public about the criteria – community support, tribal consensus and no net increase in gaming – that must be met in order for him to approve an off-reservation casino project such as Kenosha. The Kenosha casino proposal continues to fail to meet Governor Walker’s criteria. 

The Potawatomi, which operate a profitable casino complex in Milwaukee, have maintained that the off reservation parcel on which the Menominee propose to build the casino is within the Potatwatomi’s traditional lands. The site is currently home to the shuttered Dairyland Greyhound Park.

WRJN’s Janet Hoff contributed to this report