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Menominee Indian Tribe Of Wisconsin Is One Step Closer To Kenosha Casino

Written By J.R. Duren on February 9, 2024
Workers Outside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

Nine years after a failed attempt to build a casino, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin is just two steps away from bringing a Hard Rock Hotel and Casino to Kenosha.

The tribe signed an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Kenosha and Kenosha Country this week, marking the final local hurdle the tribe needed to clear, according to a report from FOX6 News. The casino plans now move to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for approval, a process that could take up to six months.

How the Menominee Tribe made it this far

In 2015, the tribe’s casino proposal cleared all but one step: a signature from then-Gov. Scott Walker. Local leaders signed off on the casino and the BIA gave the project the green light.

However, the governor vetoed the bill because it included a clause that would’ve ended the tribe’s payments to the state if Kenosha allowed a second casino that hurt the Menominee casino’s profits.

Two years ago, the tribe renewed its efforts after landing a partnership with Hard Rock.

This past month, the Kenosha City Council signed off on the casino by an 11-6 vote, and the Kenosha County Board of Supervisors did the same a few weeks later by a 10-9 vote.

What changed this time to get Kenosha casino moving forward?

The new project has two key components that made it more attractive to the state than the first attempt. First, the development will use 60 acres of land instead of 200.

Second, the Menominee have reworked the Hard Rock project so the state gets a net win even though the deal might cost the state some money. The Menominee have a compact with the Potawatomi Tribe that allows the Potawatomi to stop up to $250 million in tax payments to the state if a competing casino opens within 30-50 miles of the tribe’s Milwaukee casino and causes the casino to lose revenue.

While that compact remains in place, Joey Awonohopay, chair of the Menominee Kenosha Gaming Authority, told FOX6 News the Hard Rock project is planned out in a way that puts the state in the black even if it loses Potawatomi tax payments.

“When we’re looking at the longevity of the project, it’s a better turnout for the state of Wisconsin, for my tribe and for Kenosha County in the long run,” Awonohopay said in a FOX6 News article.

“The numbers are a little debatable in the beginning years of the project, but as we start moving further and further into the actual operation, it all comes out as Wisconsin being on top and the taxpayers not having to pay a single cent for it.”

Hard Rock Casino would be a huge boost for Menominee Tribe

The Menominee tribe has one casino in the state: Menominee Casino Resort in Keshena, which is about an hour outside of Green Bay. It’s a modest property that pales in comparison to the glamor and glitz that the Hard Rock would provide.

The proposed Kenosha property would include a casino and hotel. The casino would feature:

  • 1,500 slot machines
  • Around 50 table games
  • Seven restaurants including a Hard Rock Cafe, and bars

The hotel is planned to have 150 luxury rooms, and the property is slated to have a music venue that can seat up to 2,000 people.

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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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