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Hard Rock International CEO says Illinois officials ready to pounce on Menominee casino opportunity

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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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  • Gar Lester

    That’s what I’m talking about. It’s about time Scooter knows that he is on thin ice and I hope Illinois gets the casino (not against the Kenosha people at all), but to hell with the Potawatomi tribe and their selfish greed. Whooooooooosh…that’s the sound of all the dollars going out of Potawatomi that the Menominee’s won’t have to pay to them. Whooooooosh, That’s the sound of over a billion dollars of revenue leaving the state. Oh yeah….Whooooooosh. That’s the sound of every politician both Repub and Dem labeling Scooter as the job killer. Bet this time he won’t carry Wisconsin!

    • NO Trolley

      Amen Gar Lester!! Well said! Between Walker turning down the chance to make millions for the state (among other things) and Killaukee Mayor Trolley Tommy and his dumbass trolley (among other things),this state is screwed.

    • ItsMeItsMe Its . . .

      Give me a break. You really think this casino is going to end up in Illinois? Bruce Rauner will shoot it down too. It’s called being fiscally responsible. The era of crony deals is over and all you union sheep can’t wrap your head around it. Also, you think Scott Walker is on thin ice? How many elections does the man have to win?

  • msab

    So much for open for business BS, dont tell me his presidential run has no affect, I will not vote for him in the pres. primary if he cant get this done no way he stand up to the world or idiot libs. I will bet he will not carry state in primary, I voted for him all these years but am not going to back him, thats the difference between conservatives and libs, we will not back our guy if they are wrong and we will point it out. Thanks for nothing idiot.

    • jaun

      You’re wrong on so many levels. The people you vote into office are notorious for toeing the line. Hence, you too toe the line with a vast majority of what the right-wing tells you too. This is one example from you, an uneducated, practically illiterate, individual. Your statement if false at best and willfully ignorant at worst.

      But I will agree with you on one point: Walker is an idiot.

  • educated one

    Do you think Poto will have the same stipulations of IL owing them up to $100 million for lost revenues??? If not Poto woke up and pulled their heads out of the nether regions they had it in when dealing with WI..

    • don

      First of all pato is a smoking casino that nobody but smokers like and pato is so terrified cause hard rock will be smoke free….that in itself will make them lose business even the dealers and punishes have said they are gone if it gets approved,who wants to come home smelling like
      a bar I know I dnt thats why pato is so scared cause they know that alone would close them down/make them lose millions!

  • Gar Lester

    Potawatomi has had a great one sided gig for a long time. They acted like a typical corporation. Why invest or reinvest in our casino, keep our employees happy, and for that matter keep our customers happy. They have nowhere else to go. Well it is going to change. But the losers will the people of Milwaukee, Kenosha and Wisconsin as the river of cash and jobs flow to Illinois. I am from Detroit (originally) and watch as our city let industry and business go elsewhere. Look at Detroit now. Scott Walker….wake up and smell the coffee. You deny this to Wisconsin, you can bet you’ll never be president.

  • Joe

    This is a hollow threat for a number of reasons.
    First, The Menomonie would have to purchase land in Illinois and get it declared “trust” land by the BIA, which currently is not receptive to tribes buying land out of their home state to build casinos. That process alone could take a decade.
    Second, the Menomonie and the State of Illinois would have to negotiate a gaming compact, which is another long, drawn-out process. “Interested” and “in agreement” are far different things.
    Finally, by the time these are done, The Ho-Chunk will have their Kenosha casino up and running, negating the “closest to Chicago” advantage. The Ho-Chunk compact already allows for the Kenosha location, therefore there’s nothing Walker can do to stop it.

  • G Man

    Of course Illinois would welcome the Hard Rock. Besides the jobs the project will create, think of all of the Wisconsin residents it will lure for a mini vacation thus causing other economic development such as bars, restaurants and perhaps other hotel/water park development along with shopping. A complete tourist destination. Walker WILL NOT change his mind either because I’m sure the Potowotomi has promised him millions and millions of campaign dollars due to his decision. I’m so so so so sorry I voted for him as governor, I won’t vote for him as president. Since his re-election, he’s made some very questionable decisions. This is going to cost the state of Wisconsin dearly

  • Gar Lester

    I heard from a very reliable source, Scooter won’t reverse his decision. It seems he has had more pressure from neighboring Iowa. Why hasn’t Wisconsin put that same press on him. If Hard Rock move to Illinois, the Menominee tribe will lose out, along with all of Wisconsin.

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