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Menominee Offer $220 Million for Bucks Arena - if Walker Backs Kenosha Casino; Deal Unlikely


Supporters of a Kenosha casino have upped the ante.

The Menominee tribe and Hard Rock Hotel are offering more than $200 million to help pay for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena. The casino interests say their plan can help ease Wisconsin’s budget shortfall. All Gov. Walker has to do, is change his mind and let them build a casino at the old Dairyland Greyhound Park.

The last ditch appeal for a casino in Kenosha lends itself to a nice tagline.

“What we say is Menominee Bucks for Milwaukee Bucks.”

That’s Gary Besaw. He’s chairman of the Menominee tribe. Besaw says the tribe, in conjunction with Hard Rock International, are prepared to offer the state up to $220 million, to help finance a new basketball arena in Milwaukee. Gov. Walker’s budget calls for the state to borrow $220 million for the project while cutting other programs.

“In addition to keeping the Bucks here in Milwaukee, This move frees taxpayer money Gov. Walker has earmarked for a new arena. That public money can now be redirected to support University of Wisconsin, senior care, roads and other critical needs,” Besaw says.

Besaw says the tribe and Hard Rock International would also increase by $25 million the amount they would cover if the Potawatomi lose business at their casino in Milwaukee. Gov. Walker said the reason he denied a Kenosha casino was because the state might become liable for covering other tribe’s losses. In total, the Menominee and Hard Rock International value their deal for Wisconsin at $1.7 billion. Most would come in the form of revenue sharing, along with $220 million for an arena and $275 million to potentially reimburse other tribes.

Jim Allen is president of Hard Rock International. He says a Kenosha casino would definitely generate enough money to cover the deal.

“The reality is you have 8.2 million people within this particular market that we think is completely untapped specifically when you look at greater than 80 percent, by the governor’s own study, coming from the Illinois marketplace. So that’s number one,” Allen says.

Allen says even if the governor does not change his mind, Hard Rock International will move forward with a casino somewhere else in the region.

“It’s going to happen, and this is the only proposal that backstops the taxpayers of the state of Wisconsin and backstops the Ho Chunk and Potawatomi tribes. So if people think that’s not happening, I can assure you my opinion is it will happen. Hopefully it will be on the Wisconsin side of the border, but we have been approached,” Allen says.

The Menominee Tribe could only benefit from a casino in Wisconsin. Gov. Walker has not responded to the offer – he’s in London, but aides indicate he won’t change his mind.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos released a statement commending the tribe for not giving up.

The president of the Bucks says the team will continue focusing on the governor’s plan and working with local government.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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