Evan N. Zeppos
Menomonee Valley news conference spotlights Forest County Potawatomi’s multimillion-dollar crusade to block competition and preserve Milwaukee casino’s monopoly
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Public education campaign includes Web site and blog at CasinoCompetitionForWisconsin.com
Milwaukee – The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin today announced the launch of “Casino Competition for Wisconsin,” a public education effort and blog exposing the hypocrisy and inaccuracy of the Forest County Potawatomi’s
multimillion-dollar crusade to preserve its monopoly and squelch competition from the proposed Menominee entertainment center and casino in Kenosha. Casino Competition for Wisconsin (
www.CasinoCompetitionForWisconsin.com) also highlights the community benefits that two strong, competitive casinos would bring to Southeast Wisconsin, including thousands of good-paying jobs and billions of dollars for schools and local and state governments.
In a Menomonee Valley news conference today near the Potawatomi casino expansion, Menominee Tribal Chair Lisa Waukau pointed out that multiple economic analyses have confirmed that casino competition can flourish and create thousands of jobs and other economic benefits in Southeast Wisconsin. Racine County Executive William McReynolds, Kenosha County Executive Allan Kehl and a crowd of working men and women from Milwaukee County joined Waukau at the event.
“The Kenosha casino is a good project that would create jobs and economic opportunity for the region and state, all without hurting Potawatomi and its casino’s potential for continued economic success in Milwaukee,” Waukau said. “But the Potawatomi – who’ve never faced competition here – are fighting it with half-truths, inaccurate information, scare tactics, double standards and more. This spring, they aired yet another series of expensive, false attack ads and actually tried to change state law to lock in the monopoly their Milwaukee casino has held for nearly two decades.
“We have come today to our Menominee ancestral lands, site of the Potawatomi Bingo Casino, to once again ask Potawatomi to let competition flourish,” Waukau said. “We also want to draw public attention through Casino Competition for Wisconsin to the unfair – and unnecessary – fight Potawatomi is waging to dodge competition and preserve its monopoly. Their anti-competition efforts will hurt the economy of Milwaukee, of the region and of the state.”
Milwaukee groups support Kenosha casino’s jobs
Representing Milwaukee at the news conference were Lyle Balistreri, president of the Milwaukee Building & Construction Trades Council; Annie
Wacker, vice president of the Milwaukee County Labor Council AFL-CIO; Jim Jorgensen, business manager of Iron Workers Local 8; and a crowd of
Milwaukee-area workers carrying signs calling for fair competition in the region. The Milwaukee Building & Construction Trades Council and Milwaukee County Labor Council, which represent 155 union locals and more than 247,000
working men and women in the Milwaukee area and beyond, have endorsed the Kenosha casino because of the good jobs and other economic benefits it would bring to Wisconsin.
“The Kenosha casino project will create thousands of jobs, both during construction and after it opens,” Balistreri said. “These are jobs that will go to people right here in our community, with good salaries and benefits that will help support local families and the local economy.”
Sheila Cochran, secretary-treasurer for the Milwaukee County Labor Council, said the Kenosha casino should be a priority for everyone who cares about Southeastern Wisconsin.
“Competition brings good-paying jobs and rock-solid businesses, and that’s always been important to our members and Wisconsin,” she said. “We should be doing everything we can to encourage job growth in our region,” she said. “Competition is good for consumers, and it’s good for companies that want to remain strong, active and agile in the 21st century. Good companies don’t try to kill competition – they work with it, learn from it and become stronger by it. We think Potawatomi should do the same, not try to seek protection through a government-backed monopoly.”
Kenosha and Racine county executives encourage regional cooperation
Kenosha County Executive Kehl and Racine County Executive McReynolds spoke about their involvement in the Milwaukee 7 Regional Development campaign, an alliance of Southeast Wisconsin counties working together for redevelopment and economic success.
“The motto of the Milwaukee 7 is ‘Seven United Counties – One Great Region,’ yet some are showing anything but unity by actively lobbying against one of Kenosha County’s biggest economic priorities,” Kehl said. “Kenosha citizens have overwhelmingly approved the Menominee project in two separate referendums, and we have negotiated an outstanding Intergovernmental Agreement that provides much-needed funding to local government, schools and more. It’s disappointing to see some help in the effort to kill competition without really taking time to review the extensive research that shows both facilities – and both communities – can succeed. Our hope is that Casino Competition For Wisconsin will help shed light on the facts behind this important economic development issue.”
McReynolds said he firmly believes in the basic principle of the Milwaukee 7 initiative – that all seven counties have a mutual stake in each other’s economic well-being.
“Racine County wants all businesses in Southeastern Wisconsin to thrive – the more good jobs that are available, the better for our people,” he said. “The Kenosha casino project promises real economic benefit for the people
I’ve been elected to serve. The Kenosha casino project has my unqualified, unswerving support.”
Waukau said the Casino Competition For Wisconsin blog and Web site – written by members of the Tribe’s Kenosha project team – will be updated frequently.
“It’s safe to predict the Potawatomi will drag out new opposition tactics and make outrageous claims at every turn. It seems like there’s nothing Potawatomi’s leaders won’t do or say to avoid having to compete in a free market,” Waukau said. “We anticipate the Potawatomi will continue to provide a great deal of material for our blog and public education campaign. Our goal is to make sure the decision-makers are able to see through Potawatomi’s hype and know the truth about our project and the significant benefits, jobs and economic promise casino competition holds for Wisconsin.”
With more than 8,300 members, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin is one of the state’s largest Indian tribes and also one of its poorest. The Tribe, which was terminated by Congress in 1954 and restored in 1973, is still struggling financially to overcome that devastating period in its history.
In order to provide for the significant health care, educational and other needs of its members, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin announced plans to build an $808 million entertainment center and casino at Kenosha’s
Dairyland Greyhound Park in January 2004. The project would create more than 3,000 jobs and pay state and local government over $2 billion – more than any other Indian tribe or Wisconsin business – over the facility’s first 25 years of operation. Economic analyses, including one performed for the Forest County Potawatomi Community, indicate there is ample room in the
Southeastern Wisconsin gaming market for an expanded Potawatomi casino in Milwaukee and a new Menominee casino in Kenosha to succeed.