GREEN BAY – One year ago, the federal government said a local Indian tribe could build a casino near Kenosha. However, that project is still on hold.
The Menominee Indian Tribe’s plans still need state approval. While in Green Bay Thursday, Gov. Scott Walker said that decision is still months away.
The state is required to make a decision by Feb. 19, 2015.
“The federal government took nine years to do that, we’re going to take 18 months,” said Walker. “Much less time than they did.”
The governor’s administration is paying a Michigan-based law firm up to $1.5 million to study the potential impact of the casino.
“I think we want to be very cautious,” said Walker.
He said the project could violate some agreements the state has with other tribes operating casinos. The state could owe the tribes millions of dollars if the Kenosha casino is built.
“While we’re excited about the opportunity, potentially, for more jobs in Kenosha and surrounding areas, we also want to make sure that we don’t blow a big hole in the next state budget,” said Walker.
Gov. Walker’s opponent in November has another view.
“My top priority is to create more jobs, so I would have immediately called for an independent analysis of the Kenosha Casino proposal,” said Mary Burke, the Democratic nominee for governor.
Burke would not say if she supports or opposes the project.
The $800 million facility would be built at the former Dairyland race track. The Menominee Tribe would partner with Hard Rock International which is owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The Menominee estimates the casino would create 5,000 jobs.
But two of the state’s 11 Indian tribes oppose the project.
The Potawatomi, which operates a casino in Milwaukee, say a Kenosha casino would take money out of state.
“This is a project that would be developed and managed by a Florida Indian tribe who will take hundreds of millions of Wisconsin money back to Florida,” said George Emert, a Potawatomi spokesperson.
Meanwhile, the Menominee tribe said it is working with the governor to address any concerns.
“As their consultants are working on their analysis and if they’re requesting any information from the tribe, we’ve been providing that information,” said Laurie Boivin, the Menominee Tribal Chairperson.
Boivin said she’s confident the casino will be approved come February.