MADISON, Wisconsin — The clock is ticking on Gov. Scott Walker to decide whether to approve a new Kenosha casino and it looks like he's going to take every second before the Feb. 19 deadline. Here's a quick rundown about where the push for the casino stands:
WHO'S FOR IT?
The Menominee Nation has been pushing to build an off-reservation casino in Kenosha for more than two decades, hoping that a facility on the Wisconsin-Illinois border will draw gamblers from both the Milwaukee and Chicago metro areas and help pull their tribe out of poverty. The federal government gave the tribe a huge boost last year when it green-lit the tribe's plans for an $810 million facility at the former Dairyland Greyhound Park. The Menominee have promised the project would create thousands of jobs. Legislators from both parties who represent the area as well as local Kenosha officials support the casino, hoping it will be an economic boon. But Walker has the final say.
WHO'S AGAINST IT?
The Forest County Potawatomi runs one of the state's most lucrative casinos in Milwaukee and doesn't want to face new competition. They contend the Menominee's job creation promises are exaggerated and the state's gambling market is saturated. The tribe also has criticized the Menominee's deal with Hard Rock International to run the casino. The Florida-based Seminole tribe owns Hard Rock and the Potawatomi contend that means dollars spent here will flow out-of-state.
WHY IS THIS SO COMPLICATED?
The Potawatomi's 2005 gambling compact requires the state to reimburse the tribe for losses linked to a Kenosha casino. The Potawatomi already has refused to make its $25 million annual payment to the state out of concerns Wisconsin will end up owing the tribe if Walker approves the Kenosha facility. What's more, the Potawatomi have argued the compact also requires the state to refund as much as $100 million to the tribe if the new casino moves forward.
Arbitrators in November came up with a compact amendment that formally requires the state to reimburse the Potawatomi for its losses. The Menominee has offered to reimburse the Potawatomi but the amendment would still hold the state responsible for making sure the Potawatomi get paid. The amendment
An attorney hired by Walker's administration has warned the amendment may be invalid because the governor doesn't have the power to create annual spending obligations. The state is waiting for the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to approve or nix the amendment.
WHAT'S THE GOVERNOR THINKING?
Walker must weigh the possibility of new jobs against potentially spending millions to cover the Potawatomi's losses and alienating casino opponents as he mulls running for president in 2016.
His administration is waiting for a consultant to finish an independent analysis of the casino's economic impact and for the BIA to make a call on the Potawatomi compact amendment. The governor has said he wants to take as long as possible to make his final decision because he doesn't want to rush to judgment when it could cost the state millions.
Associated Press writer Carrie Antlfinger in Milwaukee contributed to this report.
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