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Southeastern Wisconsin may be headed for another casino controversy as possible Kenosha site advances

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Screenshot from Village of Bristol website
This image from the Village of Bristol website shows the location of the approximately 60 acres being offered to Kenosha Landco LLC.

Updated at 12:35 p.m. CDT

A possible off-reservation Native American casino is a step closer for Kenosha County.

The Village Board in Bristol Tuesday night OKed an agreement that gives Kenosha Landco LLC up to two years to buy 60 acres the village owns just west of I-94 in the city of Kenosha. Kenosha Landco is linked to the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which was blocked in an attempt to open a casino at the former Kenosha dog racing track nearly a decade ago.

Bristol resident Robert Ducato said he wants this version of the casino.

"The upside is it'll bring jobs. It'll be recreation because there's not much recreation in Kenosha. I'm scheduled to go to Las Vegas this year. Would save me [money] to stay here," Ducato told WUWM.

Chuck Quirmbach
Bristol resident Robert Ducato speaks to the joint meeting of the Bristol Village Board and Community Development Authority Tuesday evening.

But Ducato wants some assurances with any final sale—that local government would lower the speed limit near the casino and that there'd be property tax relief for village residents.

At a public hearing before Wednesday night's vote, others spoke in favor of the sale, saying the village has been trying for decades to sell the land the Town of Bristol bought to stave off annexation by Kenosha. Supporters said the village could make good use of the $15 million Kenosha Landco LLC is reportedly offering for the purchase, or even up to $125,000 the company is putting up in earnest money, if there is no eventual sale.

But other local residents spoke against the deal. Ken Wolf said Bristol won't see much long-term gain, and would wind up neighbor of a casino that some contend could bring more crime and undesirable businesses to the area.

"We know we're not going to get any of that tax revenue because that's going to go to the city of Kenosha. But it's on our front stoop, right? So, they'll get the benefit. But we'll get the fallout," Wolf said.

Chuck Quirmbach
Pictured is a portion of the land along 122nd Ave. in Kenosha County that would be included in the potential deal with Kenosha Landco LLC.

Both Bristol's Community Development Authority and Village Board unanimously passed what's called an option agreement with Kenosha Landco LLC. Village President Mike Farrell said he can't talk about a potential casino, but briefly told reporters why he backs a potential sale.

"I believe it is the obligation of the village board to try to maximize the return on this investment," Farrell said.

The proposal would also need approval from Kenosha, Kenosha County, Wisconsin's governor, and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs — a process that could take years.

That's especially if other tribes like the Forest County Potawatomi, operators of a Milwaukee casino, again oppose having gaming competition just 40 miles south.

On Wednesday, in a press release from Michael Best Strategies, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin announced that in partnership with Hard Rock International, it will relaunch the Wisconsin tribe’s efforts to open a destination entertainment center and casino in the City of Kenosha. According to the press release, "The Menominee will be the owner of the casino and related facilities, and Hard Rock will be the developer and manager of the project."

The Seminole Tribe of Florida owns Hard Rock International.

Updated: July 20, 2022 at 12:41 PM CDT
The Seminole have yet to announce the required Wisconsin tribe with whom they'd have to partner.
Chuck Quirmbach joined WUWM in August 2018. He focuses his longform stories on health, innovation, science, technology, transportation, utilities and business.
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