KENOSHA (WITI) -- Saying "yes" or "no" to an $800 million proposal for a casino in Kenosha may be the biggest economic decision Governor Scott Walker makes in the next year. A "yes" could lead to 5,000 new jobs, but it could also cost the state $100 million.
Many are attempting to influence Governor Walker's decision on the Menominee Tribe's proposed casino in Kenosha.
"The $100 million question is literally that. Because of Jim Doyle's compacts from about a decade ago, as it stands right now, without an agreement, the state could lose about $100 million or more from the Potawatomi if a casino is approved in Kenosha. That's a big hole," Governor Walker said.
The Potawatomi Tribe operates a large casino in Milwaukee, and is worried the approval of a casino in Kenosha could lead to lost revenue.
"This is a project that will take hundreds of millions of dollars from Wisconsin and send it to Florida. The Potawatomi are continuing to work through the process, and are confident the Governor will find that this project is not in the best interest of Wisconsin," Potawatomi spokesman George Ermert said.
Governor Walker is waiting for a decision from the federal government on whether Wisconsin's government could be held responsible for potential Potawatomi losses.
So if the Bureau of Indian Affairs says Wisconsin has to indemnify the Potawatomi for any losses, what would stop Governor Walker from turning around and saying 'we're going to put the Menominee on the hook for those losses, not Wisconsin taxpayers?
"That's a possibility, but things like that then have to go back to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, because anything to do with the compacts, we have to get approval from the federal government on," Governor Walker said.
Menominee Tribal Legislator Gary Besaw appeared on "Wisconsin Eye" earlier this month and appeared to back away from the tribe's earlier promise to pay for any losses the Potawatomi would incur.
"The caveat is we can only cover what legally can be covered," Besaw said.
Governor Walker says the federal government could decide that $100 million question as early as this week -- but as long as the possibility of a $100 million loss is out there, Governor Walker says it would be difficult to approve a new casino.
Governor Walker must make a final decision by February 19th.
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- “It’s complicated:” Doyle tribal compacts makes decision on Kenosha casino project challenging
- Two months ahead of Kenosha casino decision deadline, state still negotiating with Potawatomi Tribe
- “It’s been a long haul:” Supporters, opponents of Kenosha casino renew appeals as deadline nears