Time is running out for the state to complete its review of a proposed Kenosha casino, with the deadline for a decision on the project just a month away on February 19.
The Menominee Tribe wants to build an $800 million off-reservation casino on the site of the former Dairyland Greyhound Park. Federal officials have already signed-off on the plan, but Governor Scott Walker still has to approve it before construction can move forward. Walker has been reviewing the proposal for almost 18 months.
One of the biggest hurdles facing the project is opposition from the Forest County Potawatomi. The tribe operates an off-reservation casino in Milwaukee, about 50 miles away from the Kenosha site. Tribal officials argue the Kenosha casino would siphon away their customers.
The Potawatomi’s gaming compact with the state is another concern. The tribe argues that, if the Kenosha facility is approved, the state may owe them as much as $100 million from fees that have already been paid. Governor Walker has warned that could have a big impact on the state’s finances, noting that the tribe is already withholding about $25 million in payments to the state and further losses could create a “substantial hole” in the state budget he’s working on.
The Potawatomi and Walker administration recently asked federal officials to amend the tribe’s gaming compact with language that would have made state government liable for losses at the Milwaukee casino. The Bureau of Indian Affairs rejected the request earlier this month.
Politics may also be playing a role in the decision-making process, with pressure mounting on the governor from anti-gambling groups as he considers a 2016 bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Speaking to reporters last week, Walker denied political considerations were at play. Walker said “if that was the case, I would have made a decision in that regard a long time ago.”
Walker has said previously that a decision is likely to come very close to the deadline.