KENOSHA (WITI) -- Could Governor Scott Walker's decision to reject a casino in Kenosha send business across the border into Illinois? That's the case Kenosha casino advocates are building one day after the Walker administration rejected an offer by the Menominee Tribe and Hard Rock International to help pay for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena. In a warning to Walker, they say officials in Illinois are ready to pounce on the opportunity.
"If it doesn't happen here, 100% -- we believe it's going to happen on the Illinois side of the border," Hard Rock International CEO Jim Allen said.
Allen says he's already fielding calls from Illinois and he's warning officials in Wisconsin that an opportunity for an $800 million development and 10,000 jobs is slipping away.
Governor Walker rejected the Menominee Tribe and Hard Rock International's proposed casino in Kenosha last month -- saying the threat the Potawatomi Tribe would take legal action outweighed potential new jobs that the project would create.
"The jobs are something we looked at. But, again, if you're on the hook for $100 million -- it's a pretty high hurdle," Walker said.
Now, the Illinois government will have a chance to step in. The strategy dates back four years, when then-Governor Pat Quinn wrote in a memo that a "Lake County casino brings back Illinois dollars that are currently being spent at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee."
New Governor Bruce Rauner says he's open to expanding gaming in northern Illinois -- bemoaning revenue lost to other neighboring states.
"A lot of our residents leave and give big tax revenue to Indiana. I'm not sure that's very smart," Rauner said.
Eric Olson with the Kenosha Gaming Authority says a rejection in Kenosha hurts both the Menominee Tribe and the Potawatomi Casino by sending business across the border.
"I hope that they take every amount of business they can from Potawatomi if that opens up down there," Olson said.
"The first to the market would win," Menominee Tribal Legislator Gary Besaw said.
The Menominee Tribe currently operates a small casino on its reservation in Keshena. So why isn't that one good enough?
"You've heard the old adage: location, location, location? It's ideal for the access to Northern Illinois and the Chicagoland market," Besaw said.
Kenosha casino advocates say if Wisconsin loses Potawatomi revenue to Illinois, Walker's idea of saving taxpayers' money falls apart, but Governor Walker's administration says Walker will not reverse his decision, though he has until February 19th to change his mind.
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