In 2015, then-Governor Scott Walker finally found a way to say no to a casino in Kenosha—a casino that would have been the first off-reservation casino in the state. Reasonable people would think the issue was dead since the final answer from the final authority supposedly killed the very bad idea. But apparently dead casino ideas can be resurrected if you have the means to be crafty and creative. Yes, the Kenosha casino issue is again alive—and that’s most unfortunate.
The Florida Seminole tribe—with some kind of flimsy tie to the Wisconsin Menomonee Tribe—that tried seven years ago to get a casino in Kenosha is back, this time trying to purchase a 60-acre parcel of land to the west of Kenosha—a parcel that originally belonged to the city of Kenosha but was bought by the Village of Bristol. Because the land is in the city of Kenosha, the city has the final approval for any developments on the land, even though Bristol gets any proceeds from the sale of the land.
Late last month, Bristol's Village Board unanimously approved a $15 million sale of the 60 acres to the Florida-based Hard Rock International. Plans for the project include a casino, music venue, hotel and a Hard Rock Café. The Hard Rock International operates hotels, restaurants and casinos owned by the Seminole Tribe. Interestingly, thanks to conservative media outlet Empower Wisconsin anchored by ace investigative reporter Matt Kittle, we learn that the Kenosha Land Co which made the offer to the Bristol Village Board, shares an address with Hard Rock International.
As so often happens with these casino deals, the public has been kept in the dark about much of the negotiations between the village and the Kenosha Land Company. The letter of intent contained a clause that was essentially a gag order, keeping Village elected officials from talking publicly about the proposed deal.
Assuming the sale goes through, the casino isn’t actually a done deal. As Wisconsin Public Radio reports, “several other government entities, including the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, would also need to approve the plans, meaning the process could take several months or years.”
Ultimately, the final decision about an off-reservation casino in Kenosha owned and managed in large part by a Florida tribe will be made by a governor. Our current governor, Tony Evers, has made it clear he is all for expanding gambling in The Badger State. He has unilaterally approved sports betting in Wisconsin by negotiating changes in the compacts of several of the tribes to allow for sports betting in casinos and even just on casino property. And last year, Governor Evers approved a casino in Beloit, making that location the state’s first off-reservation casino.
So obviously, if Tony Evers is still governor when the Kenosha proposal comes to the executive office, Wisconsin will have yet another casino. Asking gubernatorial candidates whether they would approve yet another casino seems more than appropriate as we head into this fall’s partisan elections.
As our friends at Citizens Against Expanded gambling remind us as they work valiantly to stop this Kenosha casino, Wisconsin does not need another casino. We already have over 20 casinos; no one in our state is more than a two-hour drive to one. These establishments have been around long enough now for us to know what they bring to communities…and it’s not all the wonderful things those pushing a casino promise. In fact, most of those promises are never fulfilled; and if they are, they don’t compensate for all the negatives casinos bring. With casinos comes increased crime, destroyed local businesses, increases in the number of problem gamblers, which means more broken marriages and families, more alcohol and drug addictions and more—meaning communities are harmed much more than helped when they buy the lie that a casino is going to be an economic boon.
What so often gets purposefully lost in these discussions is that casinos are designed for people to lose money—and lots of it—and in this case, most of the profits from this Kenosha casino won’t even stay in Wisconsin; they’ll go to Florida.
Village of Bristol elected officials have been lured by the siren call of $15 million. We can only hope that somewhere during this process, truth is recognized and the deals implode, because resurrecting the Kenosha casino proposal is a very, very bad idea.
This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
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