UpFront: Legislators differ over impact of proposed Kenosha casino

Two state legislators from Milwaukee and Kenosha sparred over the proposed Menominee casino in Kenosha, highlighting the regional differences among lawmakers over whether they support the project.

State Reps. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, and Samantha Kerkman, R-Powers Lake, appeared on Sunday’s “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com. The lawmakers spoke two days before Gov. Scott Walker’s deadline for meeting his criteria for approving new casinos.

That includes support from all of the state’s 11 tribes, two of which oppose the proposed Menominee casino: the Ho-Chunk, which has gambling halls in Madison and Wisconsin Dells, and the Potawatomi, which has a casino in Milwaukee.

Goyke said he sees no way the casino, which he said would cause job losses of 3,000 in Milwaukee, will be approved given that opposition. He said many of the profits from the Kenosha casino would leave the state and go to the Florida Seminole tribe’s Hard Rock International, which would manage the casino.

“A key point [is that] Potawatomi is a corporate citizen in Milwaukee,” Goyke said. “They’ve invested over $30 million dollars in the neighborhood. … The Kenosha casino, unfortunately, the wealth of that casino project is going to be spread to the East Coast, now to Florida. … So the money’s not really going to stay here.”

But Kerkman said the Kenosha casino would bring new jobs to the state and would make the Menominee tribe the state’s largest taxpayer. “I think the 1,400 construction jobs that are going to be needed are going to be local,” she said. “I believe the 5,000 indirect and direct jobs that it’s going to create in Kenosha County when it’s fully built out is going to impact all of southeastern Wisconsin. And it’s going to be a bonus. I think there’s room for both casinos.”

Also on the show, Kurt Bauer, president of the business lobby Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, said his group has been running ads to ensure people know the state’s business climate has improved since Walker took office.

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