By David Wise
Now that the Department of the Interior has formally rejected the Menominees’ application to put land into trust for an $800 million off-reservation casino in Kenosha, a spokesman says the tribe plans to fight “tooth and nail” in court to overturn the decision.
The rejection letter from the Bureau of Indian Affairs said the request was denied because the tribe failed to show it doesn’t have enough land within its boundaries to meet its unmet economic needs and that operating the facility on land away from the tribal lands would encourage splintering of the the tribal community.
The tribe had expected the rejection, and it tried unsuccessfully in federal court to have a judge bar the department from making a decision in the matter until the new presidential administration is in place. The tribe held that Bush administration Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has a personal bias against off-reservation gaming.
“The department’s action in rejecting the Tribe’s application is not based on the facts or the law,” Menominee Chair Lisa Waukau said in a press release.
Waukau noted the group’s court action had been stalled as the government had not yet rejected the proposal, which made the case premature.
“The department’s action today removed that argument, and we are supremely confident that the court will overturn this illegal action,” Waukau said.
Waukau said the rejection was only a temporary setback, adding it’s “disappointing that the federal courts will in the end have to order the department to do the right thing.”
Kenosha project spokesman Evan Zeppos said the tribe will fight the decision “tooth and nail” in court and will appeal to the new administration for consideration.
A spokesman for the the Forest County Potawatomi said he wanted to review the department’s decision before commenting. The Potawatomi operate a casino in Milwaukee, and have actively opposed the Kenosha casino project.