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Politics & Government

Kenosha Left to Pick Up The Pieces in Wake of Casino Decision

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Marti Mikkelson
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Gov. Scott Walker sent shock waves through Kenosha late last week when he rejected a proposed $800 million tribal casino at Dairyland Greyhound Park.

Walker said approval might have meant the state paying hundreds of millions of dollars to the Potawatomi tribe if its casino in Milwaukee lost business.

Officials on both sides of the aisle expressed disappointment that the area lost thousands of potential jobs. Leaders from both Kenosha and Racine had invested themselves in the project, but remain optimistic.

The Menominee Nation wanted to build a gambling and entertainment complex at the former dog track along I-94 in Kenosha County. The tribe said the revenue would have eased poverty among members.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos was excited about the prospects for his county – Racine, just north of Kenosha.

“We know that the venue would have brought tourists from all around the country, we know that the opportunity for growth and development would have pushed all the way into Racine County’s borders, but unfortunately today we weren’t able to see the fruits of all of that labor,” Vos says.

Yet, Vos says he’s grateful for the partnerships that formed among the leaders in both counties. He predicts they’ll continue lobbying for jobs and economic development.

“Sometimes there’s almost been this concrete wall between Racine and Kenosha counties and I think this is an opportunity for us to say we’re all showing how we can work together and I think the next big economic opportunity, we’re going to be ready for it,” Vos says.

Plenty of exciting growth is already underway, according to Republican state Rep. Samantha Kerkman of Kenosha County.

“We have 5,500 jobs coming on in the Racine/Kenosha area in the next 24 months. Uline and Amazon, Emco, just to name a few, the companies that have made the commitment to come to Wisconsin and expand right here,” Kerkman says.

And perhaps, Kerkman says, a developer might someday snap up all 230 acres of the shuttered dog track. Gov. Walker says there is no reason for southeastern Wisconsin to wring its hands.

“We’ve helped through our policies and direct actions, provide literally thousands of jobs to Kenosha County and southeastern Wisconsin, in the last couple years. We’re committed to that area. It’s one of the areas with most rapid growth, both companies starting and growing there, as well as those coming over the border from Illinois and other places around the world. Kenosha County is doing very well and will be doing very well in the future, because of efforts unrelated to this," Walker says.

Growth has been spilling over from northern Illinois.

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