Boots & Sabers

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Tag: Kenosha Casino

Menominee Sweetens Pot

As reported on Mark Belling’s show this afternoon, the Menominee and Seminole tribes are sweetening the pot for the Kenosha casino. They are offering to give $200 million in cash – no string attached – to finance a new Bucks arena in downtown Milwaukee if Governor Walker reverses his decision and approves the Kenosha casino. They make this offer while keeping in tact all of their previous commitments including a larger cut of the profits than other casinos and a promise to indemnify the taxpayers of Wisconsin against any ill effects as a result of the compact with the Potowatomi.

This is a very clever move by the Menominee. First, the deal is getting overwhelming for Wisconsin and extremely difficult for Walker to continue to obstruct the Kenosha casino. We are talking about hundreds of millions in cash to the state – not to mention the projected $1 billion+ economic development from the casino – for the risk that the state might… might… have to reimburse the Potowatomi, the money for which the Menominee are willing to refund the taxpayers.

Second, Walker and the Milwaukee political leaders really want a new Bucks arena and really want the taxpayers to pay a couple hundred million dollars to support it. None of them want to be the governor or mayor who saw the NBA leave Wisconsin because they couldn’t get a deal done. By offering to give $200 million for the project, the Menominee are replacing the need for the taxpayers to pay anything for it. It would be completely privately financed and the taxpayers would get to keep the tax revenue that Walker wants to spend on funding the new arena. It will be exceedingly difficult for Republicans in the legislature to support public financing of an arena in Milwaukee if Walker turned down an opportunity to get the arena built without any taxpayer dollars. By making this offer, state taxpayer support for a Milwaukee arena is virtually dead whether or not Walker reverses his decision. Now the only question is if Walker is going to get something for it.

Walker now has a chance to enable two massive economic development projects in Wisconsin with a single decision. Approving the Kenosha casino will get both the casino and the Bucks arena done… and he can take credit for both deals done – without needing taxpayer money – as he heads into a presidential campaign.

Make the deal, Governor Walker. Approve the casino.

Walker Denies Kenosha Casino

Put me firmly in the camp that is angry at Walker for this decision.

KENOSHA — Gov. Scott Walker’s rejection of the proposed Kenosha casino Friday prompted anger from Racine- and Kenosha-area officials.

In rejecting the casino, Walker 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.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, blamed Doyle for creating a “no-win situation.”

But Vos, who is close with the governor, also said Walker made the wrong decision.

On the merits, Walker got it wrong. While there remained a risk that the state would have been held liable for the Potawatomi’s losses per their compact, the BIA has already ruled that provision unenforceable. It is likely that the courts would rule in the BIA’s favor. And even so, the Menomonee had already agreed to make the state taxpayers whole in this eventuality. The risk to the taxpayers was more than acceptable given the opportunity to create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic development for the state.

Walker blew the chance to bring jobs and economic development to Wisconsin. The question is “why?” and none of the possible answers look good for Walker.

The reason for the decision given by Walker is that the risk of losing money from the Potawatomi was too great. First, as I said above, the risk was more than acceptable given the potential reward. Second, it shows that Walker prioritized state tax revenue over jobs and economic development in the private sector. That’s not a conservative position. Even if it came to pass that the state did lose $100 million from the Potawatomi – offset by whatever revenues are generated by the new casino – it represents a tiny fraction of a $30 billion budget. And with the stated goal of reducing the size of government, Walker should have no problem dealing with a decline in revenue from the Potawatomi – assuming he’s sincere about his pledge to shrink state government.

If the stated reason for Walker’s decision is the real one, then it was just a stupid decision. But more troubling are some of the other possible reasons. Both Iowa social conservatives and allegedly Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate who has opposed the Seminole casinos in the past, have urged Walker to kill the Kenosha casino. With Walker wanting to run for president, it sure appears that he let his personal political aspirations influence his decision to the detriment of the welfare of Wisconsin.

But even if Walker did make his decision based on politics, it was a stupid political decision too. Walker’s claim to fame is that he is a tough conservative who is not afraid to take on the tough fights. Well, he buckled on this decision. “Unintimidated?” hardly.

Also, Walker stakes his political reputation on being a champion of private sector job creation. With this decision, he has given up that plank. He has little ground to stand on criticizing opponents of the iron mine, Keystone pipeline, or other major projects when he single-handedly turned away thousands of private Wisconsin jobs. And every time Walker complains about job creation, his opponents can rightly point to this decision as hypocritical.

Finally, Walker used the excuse that it was former governor Jim Doyle’s horrible compact with the Potawatomi that forced this decision. While it is true that Doyle signed a sweetheart deal that put the taxpayers at risk and made this decision somewhat challenging, it’s a weak excuse. Walker has been governor for 4 years. He is well past the point of being able to blame his predecessor. He was elected to make changes and move Wisconsin forward – not make excuses and whine about the decisions of previous governors.

This further undermines Walker’s argument for being president. If he should win the White House, he will be succeeding perhaps the most destructive president we have had in a very long time. There will be huge messes left for him to figure out. How is he going to deal with Obamacare? ISIS? Immigration? Massive deficit? Etc. Is he going to just blame Obama and say he can’t do anything about those messes? If he can’t handle a bad compact with a tiny tribe in Wisconsin, how is he going to handle Putin? Again, Walker’s claim is that he is “unintimidated,” but he has severely undermined that image.

Whether you look at it based on the merits or the politics, Walker got this very wrong and the state of Wisconsin has missed out on a rare opportunity for a massive infusion of economic development.

Unfortunately, he can’t be reached for comment this weekend because he’s campaigning for president in Iowa. By such actions he is showing us his priorities.

Iowa Republicans Tell Walker to Deny Kenosha Casino

Will Walker deny Wisconsin thousands of jobs and over $1 billion of economic investment to appease Republicans in Iowa? Will his presidential ambition trump Wisconsin’s interests?

Madison — Influential social conservatives in Iowa are warning Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker that approving a proposed Kenosha casino subsequent month could hurt his presidential bid.

In a single of the first tests of his second term, Walker will have to decide by Feb. 19 whether or not to approve the $800 million project proposed by the Menominee tribe and backed by Challenging Rock International, owned by the Seminole tribe of Florida.

Bureau of Indian Affairs Rejects Amendment


The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs on Friday shot down a tribal gaming compact amendment that calls for the state to be on the hook for millions of dollars if a Kenosha casino opened and the Potawatomi tribe saw business at its Milwaukee gambling hall fall as a result, according to letters released Friday.

“We have never been presented with a compact or amendment that goes so far as to attempt to guarantee the continued profitability of one tribe’s casino at the expense of another tribe,” BIA head Kevin Washburn wrote in letters to Gov. Scott Walker and Harold Frank, Potawatomi chairman.

Washburn added that a gaming compact is intended to deal with “legitimate regulatory concerns” about Indian casinos. The proposed amendment to the Potawatomi compact, which calls for the tribe to be indemnified against any revenue lost to a proposed $800 million Menominee casino in Kenosha, goes far beyond that.

“Its intent is to protect the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino revenue losses due to competition” from a Kenosha casino, Washburn wrote.

The state and Potawatomi in November sent the BIA the proposed amendment to its 2005 gaming compact that includes protections against it incurring losses to a new off-reservation casino located within 50 miles of the Milwaukee casino. An arbitration panel determined the meaning of the language and how to enforce it. But a lawyer for Walker questioned whether the governor could legally commit the state to help cover any losses at the Potawatomi casino.

The BIA got this right. As I understand it, this absolves the taxpayers or anyone else from making the Potawatomi whole if they lose business due to competition. That’s good. It takes that off the table. I believe the Potawatomi still might be able to withhold its payments to the state because of a provision in its gaming compact, but even that is suspect.

This removes one more barrier to Walker approving the Kenosha casino. Now he just needs to actually do it.



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