Now that the deadline has passed for a decision on the Menominee Tribe’s proposed off-reservation casino in Kenosha, one expert says the battle could move to the court system.
Governor Scott Walker rejected the $800 million casino project last month, but casino supporters argued he could reverse his decision until a February 19 deadline that had been set by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Despite a massive push by the tribe, which includde members marching more than 150 miles to the Capitol and offering $220 million to fund construction of a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, the governor declined to meet with them or to reconsider.
Walker frequently cited concerns about how the project could drain state finances of more than $100 million, because Wisconsin might be required to make payments to the Forest County Potawatomi to cover losses at their nearby casino in Milwaukee. However, UW-Madison law professor Richard Monette notes that, under federal rules, a governor can only consider two things – whether the proposal is in the best interest of the tribe and if it’s in the best interest of the local community. He says a Department of Administration study showed that “not only was a casino not detrimental to Kenosha, but also not having a casino is detrimental” because of lost jobs from building and operating the facility.
The tribe could also make arguments that giving governors the authority to approve or deny a project is unconstitutional. While it doesn’t mean they would win in court, Monette believes there is grounds for the Menominee to take the issue in court.
Tribal leaders said this week that they continue to explore their options.