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.