Kenosha News editorial: It’s time for the Kenosha casino to be built | Editorial

Kenosha News Editorial Board

Twice before, a proposal for a Kenosha casino has gone to the governor’s desk and failed. Former Gov. Scott McCallum nixed it in 2001. Then Gov. Scott Walker killed it in 2015.

Here’s hoping the third time is the charm. Maybe this time a casino can be built in Kenosha, helping grow the area’s economy by drawing more people into the area and helping support Wisconsin’s Menominee Indian tribe.

We hope whoever is governor after the November election sees it the same way, as an economic development tool for the area and state as a whole.

The current plan involves Florida-based Hard Rock International teaming with the Menominee to open an entertainment center and casino just west of Interstate 94 on about 60 acres of land. The Menominee would own the casino and its related facilities, and Hard Rock would serve as developer and manager of the project.

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The Village of Bristol Board has voted unanimously to sell 59.91 acres of land for $15,213,221 for the project. Approvals for development on the land must come through the City of Kenosha because the site is located within the city limits.

Menominee Chairman Ronald J. Corn Sr. said the revived effort is aimed at providing necessary resources for the ongoing and growing needs of the tribe’s members. Hard Rock International previously planned to partner with the Menominee to develop a $800 million hotel and casino at the former site of Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha. That plan, however, was rejected by Walker in 2015.

“Much has changed since our 2015 effort, but the needs of our tribe and its members have continued acute and in some cases grown more,” Corn said in a statement. “The proposed project will not be as big as it was previously envisioned, but it will still create jobs and be substantial. It will still be a Hard Rock brand and be an incredible addition to the community, the local and regional economy, and the state.”

Yes, things have changed since 2015, but a casino would still be a draw to the area and the idea that it would not be as big as once proposed could be better, at least initially.

We realize not everyone is pleased to see a casino proposed again. Some have already spoken up at meetings expressing concerns.

But look at Kenosha’s history. For about 20 years, between 1990 and 2009, people went to Kenosha to bet on the dog races at Dairyland Greyhound Track. So there is a history of gambling in the area. The casino is just a different type of gambling. And going to a casino is often about more than gambling. It’s about getting something good to eat and catching a show with friends. It’s not just about the slots or blackjack tables.

The concept of a casino here has had public support. Kenosha held two previous advisory referendums on whether to have a casino and, in both cases, they were strongly passed.

When McCallum shot down the casino in 2001, he did so because he opposed expanding gaming in the state.

When Walker nixed the project, he cited the project’s potential hit to the state budget, which he has said is due to compacts former Gov. Jim Doyle negotiated with the Forest County Potawatomi. The compacts called for the tribe to be reimbursed for losses incurred because of a new casino, which the Menominee then promised to pay. Walker still killed the project in a decision some attribute to Walker’s presidential ambitions at that time.

As with all proposals, this new casino plan must be thoroughly vetted and we trust local officials will do their part to protect local residents and taxpayers.

Our hope is that if this plan gets local approval that the state will support the casino as well.

The Kenosha community and the Menominee tribe have wanted this project for more than 20 years. It’s time to make it happen.

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