Menominee Nation sought to bar rival off-reservation casino

Menominee Nation Chairman Gary Besaw, center, stands with casino supporters in Kenosha, Wisconsin. February 17, 2014. Photo from Facebook

The Menominee Nation tried to block the Ho-Chunk Nation from opening an off-reservation casino, according to a letter released by Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Monday.

As part of an offer to provide $220 million for a new arena, the Menominees wanted to bar another off-reservation development within 90 miles of its $800 million casino in Kenosha. That would have prevented Walker, or a future state governor, from approving the Ho-Chunk Nation's proposed casino in Beloit.

A conceptual design of the proposed Ho-Chunk Nation off-reservation in Beloit, Wisconsin. Image from Good for Beloit

"[Y]ou stated that one of the goals of the offer was to block a future Beloit casino," Walker said in the letter to Menominee Chairman Gary Besaw.

According to Walker, the arena offer was made back in October 2014. But it didn't gain much media attention until recently -- after the governor officially rejected the Kenosha casino on January 23

In the meantime, the Menominees repeatedly disputed the legality of a provision in a compact with the Forest County Potawatomi Community that would have held the state liable or any losses from a rival casino within 30 to 40 miles of the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee. Kenosha is 40 miles from Milwaukee.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs supported the view expressed by the Menominee and refused to approve the Potawatomi compact. But that didn't persuade Walker to support the Kenosha casino.

Tribal members on the 156-mile march to Madison. Photo from Facebook

The Menominees, however, are still hoping Walker will change his mind. A group of about a dozen tribal members are wrapping up a 156-mile march from the reservation to Madison with the hopes of meeting with the governor one last time. They are arriving in the capitol tonight after walking five days in frigid temperatures.

The BIA approved the casino under the two-part determination provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Walker has said he won't reconsider his decision by the final deadline on the project, which is Thursday, February 19.

The Ho-Chunk Nation is pursuing the Beloit casino under the same process. The BIA has been preparing an preparing an environmental impact statement but a draft hasn't been issued even though a notice was put out more than two years ago.

Get the Story:
Menominee keeps marching to Madison, even after rejection of latest casino proposal (WKOW 2/17)
Walker says no to casino reconsideration (The Kenosha News 2/17)
In Kenosha visit, Walker dismisses more casino talk (The Racine Journal Times 2/17)
Walker again rejects Kenosha casino (The Milwaukee Business Times 2/17)
Why Did Gov. Walker Reject Plans For A Kenosha Casino? (WUWM 2/16)
Marching for a meeting: Menominee Nation members want to talk with Gov. Walker (WITI 2/16)

Some Opinions:
Editorial: Ignoring the obvious solution (The Kenosha News 2/16)
Dana Hutson: We could have something better than a casino (The Kenosha News 2/16)

Bureau of Indian Affairs Documents:
Press Release | Fact Sheet: Menominee Nation Decision | Section 20 Determination: Menominee Nation Off-Reservation Casino

Related Stories
Menominee Nation begins 156-mile walk in support of casino (2/13)
Editorial: Approve off-reservation casino for Ho-Chunk Nation (01/28)
Ho-Chunk Nation's gaming compact authorizes another facility (01/27)

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