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Menominee Nation Urges Walker to Approve Kenosha Casino


Supporters of a tribal casino in Kenosha turned up the heat on Gov. Scott Walker Tuesday.

The Menominee Nation called on Walker to allow the tribe to open a casino in Kenosha. The federal government approved the plan last week but the governor must sign off on it.

About a dozen tribal leaders and Kenosha officials held a news conference at the state capitol.

Menominee Tribe Chairman Craig Corn implored Gov. Walker to approve the project on the site of the failed greyhound track.

He says the Menominee tribe is one of the poorest in the nation, and the casino would provide a tremendous boost to the economy.

“So many people are excited about what the project means for Kenosha, southeast Wisconsin and the state as a whole, more than 3,300 jobs at the casino, 1,400 construction jobs, 1,800 indirect jobs, millions of dollars in revenue for the state and local government and schools,” Corn says.

Gov. Walker has outlined his criteria for approving an off-reservation casino. Those include no new net gaming in the state and a consensus of support among Wisconsin’s eleven tribes. Menominee leader Gary Besaw admits the lobbying effort will be intense, but believes the tribe will prevail.

“We believe the governor will approve this. We think the governor is going to look at this as the interests of the state over any other interest and when you look at that it’s a no brainer, it has to go forward and we believe that will happen,” Besaw says.

Besaw says in the coming weeks, the Menominee will also reach out to the other tribes, including the Potawatomi. It operates a casino in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley. Potawatomi spokesman George Ermert says the tribe is vehemently opposed to the Kenosha casino.

“Analysis from the city and county of Milwaukee shows as many as 3,000 jobs could be lost in Milwaukee if this project is developed,” Ermert says.

Ermert adds the Potawatomi tribe has concerns over what it considers the project’s shady past.

“This project has a long history of being associated with individuals who have very questionable backgrounds. One local elected official in Kenosha went to federal prison for accepting bribes for trying to push the casino forward. The Potowatami don’t think that type of business should be operating in the gaming industry in Wisconsin,” Ermert says.

Former Kenosha County Executive Allan Kehl was sentenced to two years in federal prison in 2008 for accepting bribes from casino backers.

Ermert says he doesn’t know yet if the Potawatomi would support the Kenosha casino if the Menominee shared revenue with the tribe. Menominee leaders said Tuesday they are prepared to make such an offer.

Gov. Walker has indicated he will make his decision on the casino within the next two months.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.