Rolling the dice: Kenosha-area officials call for casino approval

MADISON (WITI/AP) — Leaders from southeastern Wisconsin and Democratic state lawmakers say Governor Scott Walker should immediately approve the Menominee Tribe's proposed casino in Kenosha because it would put people back to work. The long-delayed proposal is now a front-and-center issue for the upcoming election in November.

Leaders and lawmakers came together in Madison on Wednesday, August 27th -- to put pressure on Governor Walker to approve the casino.

"We just think there needs to be urgency around this jobs issue," Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said.

"1,000 construction jobs and eventually over 3,000 permanent  family supporting jobs in southeastern Wisconsin.  All of this, with the stroke of a pen," Rep. Tod Ohnstad (D-Kenosha) said.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs gave its okay for the casino a year ago, but Governor Walker has until February 19th to sign off on it. Governor Walker has the final say on this project.

Governor Walker said in a letter to lawmakers on Tuesday that he's moving cautiously because he's concerned about the effect on the state budget.

The Forest County Potawatomi has refused to make its annual casino revenue payment to the state as Governor Walker negotiates with it. That's because the Potawatomi Tribe believes it will be owed money by the state if the Kenosha casino project is approved.

The Potawatomi Tribe is opposed to the proposed Kenosha project because it fears a new casino would draw from its business in Milwaukee -- even thought he Menominee Tribe has agreed to offset any losses.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he thinks Walker is moving as quickly as he can on this issue -- but others, like Senator Bob Wirch (D-Kenosha) believe Governor Walker is waiting to sign off on the project so he can benefit from a major jobs announcement closer to the election.

"Now, we are in the home stretch with an election coming up in November and you can only think it had politics involved if a decision is made in the near future," Senator Wirch said.

Assembly Speaker Vos says he's looking at the Democrats' press conference Wednesday and pressure on Governor Walker as a ploy -- and nothing else.

"They don`t care about what it costs.  They don`t care if ultimately taxpayers are on the hook.  And they don`t actually care about what the final ramifications are of the negotiations. If it costs the state of Wisconsin hundreds of millions of dollars a year, you have to balance that out against the number of jobs created," Vos said.

Meanwhile,  a poll shows strong support for a new tribal casino in Kenosha. The Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday shows 49 percent support the $810 million casino and Hard Rock Cafe complex in Kenosha.

The poll shows the strongest support for the casino is in the Milwaukee media market, where 60 percent favor it and 25 percent are against it.

The Menominee Tribe on Wednesday afternoon released details on a study that has revealed more than 10,600 jobs will be created if and when the Kenosha casino is approved.

READ IT: Study shows Kenosha casino could create 10,600 jobs

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