New Menominee Casino Project Reduces Wisconsin Risks, Study Finds

KESHENA, Wisc.—A study found Wednesday that Wisconsin’s potential liability for a new casino project proposed by the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin is significantly reduced compared to the tribe’s latest proposal.

In July, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin (MITW) announced a partnership with Hard Rock International (Hard Rock) to open an entertainment and casino destination in the city of Kenosha. This is the Menominee’s second attempt to open a casino in Kenosha, one of Wisconsin’s largest cities.

“This new LRB [Legislative Reference Bureau] the analysis provides more reason to support and approve Menominee’s partnership with Hard Rock International for a proposed Kenosha casino and destination entertainment center,” MITW President Ronald Corn Sr. said in a statement. statement Thursday. “As the LRB’s analysis indicates, the financial risk of greenlighting this project is significantly lower than it was in 2015, and the benefits to the state, to Kenosha and to the Menominee are significant. “

MITW had previously proposed an $800 million casino project with Hard Rock, which is owned by Florida’s Seminole tribe, and was ultimately turned down by Republican Gov. Scott Walker on January 23, 2015. Former Gov. is said to be concerned about the obligation of the state. to repay payments to Forest County Potawatomi (FCP), estimated by FCP at more than $243 million. The project received support from various Wisconsin-based tribes and the Bureau of Indian Affairs and was opposed by Forest Potawatomi County and the Ho-Chunk Nation. FCP withheld payment of $25 million to the state while the former governor considered the project.

According to the Indian Gaming Regulation Act (IGRA) of 1988, a Governor has the final power to approve or deny any Indian gaming operation within the jurisdiction of the state.

A amendment in 2018 between Forest County Potawatomi and Wisconsin reduces the risk of potential revenue losses through a potential reduction in future payments by either party. The pact stipulates that the state would not be required to reimburse the tribe’s past or future payments. According to the amendment to the pact, the FCP could place disputed payments in an escrow account pending a final court decision.

“The bottom line in the LRB report is that the financial risk to the state has been significantly reduced, and we applaud the bipartisan efforts of Senator Wanggaard and Senator Wirch for working together to draw attention to this new disclosure. “Corn said. “The Forest County Potawatomi community had argued in a 2015 federal lawsuit that the state would have to reimburse them approximately $243 million if the Kenosha project were approved, but that is no longer the case.”

In Wisconsin, amendments to the Indian Gaming Covenant made in the late 1990s and early 2000s require each tribe that operates Indian gaming to make annual payments to the state based on their gaming revenue . These annual revenue-share payments are considered reimbursement for the exclusive ability to conduct prohibited types of gaming on non-tribal lands in Wisconsin. In other words, because other non-tribal entities cannot operate or own casinos in the state, tribes pay the state to operate.

“Most importantly, the 2018 amendment provides for revenue loss mitigation only in the future,” according to the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. analysis. “In other words, unlike the 2014 arbitrated amendment, the state would not have to reimburse the tribe for any of the tribe’s past payments to the state.”

The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau is a nonpartisan legislative services agency that provides legal, research, and information services to the Wisconsin Legislative Assembly.

The study also highlights why the proposed casino project is important to the Menominee. According to the study, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin is one of the poorest tribes in Wisconsin. It is also one of the largest of Wisconsin’s 10 federally recognized tribes.

“As one of the largest and poorest tribes in Wisconsin, LRB analysis notes that our people routinely experience the highest rates of poverty and unemployment in the state, as well as the lowest ratings. lower in health,” Corn said of the study. “Our goal for this major economic development and tourism destination project is to invest in improving and expanding our tribal members’ access to health care and education and to dedicate more resources to the fight against poverty, hunger and unemployment on our reserve.”

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The Green Bay Press-Gazette reported in August that two neighboring tribes of the Menominee, the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation, supported the tribe’s casino project. Forest Potawatomi County was reported to be strongly opposed to the project, as it operates a casino 40 miles north of Milwaukee. The project also documented 3-1 support from local residents, according to a study by the MIT Gaming Commission.

“Potawatomi is opposed to this casino,” Potawatomi spokesman George Ermert told the Green Bay Press-Gazette on Aug. 16. “We are opposed to a tribe from Florida unrelated to Wisconsin entering our state and taking millions of dollars to bring them back to Florida.”

Forest Potawatomi County said it supports a casino project being developed by the Ho-Chunk Nation in Beloit, which is about 80 miles from Milwaukee and could compete with the Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee.

The Menominee casino project will take several years, requiring various federal, state and local government approvals. The value of the pending casino project is not known, but in July the Seminole Tribe of Florida purchased a 60-acre parcel of land, where the project is proposed, for more than $15 million from the Village of Bristol .

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About the Author

Author: Darren ThompsonE-mail: This email address is protected from spam. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a reporter for Native News Online, based in the Minnesota Twin Cities. Thompson has reported on political unrest, tribal sovereignty and Indigenous issues for the Indigenous Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, and Unicorn Riot. He has contributed to The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in the international conversation. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminology and legal studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Martin E. Berry