Time for Walker to say no to Kenosha casino

GUEST OPINION

WHY IS GOV. SCOTT Walker having so much trouble saying no? His administration has hemmed and hawed and delayed and dragged its feet and argued that it needs more time - and even more time - to decide whether to grant the Menominee tribe permission to open a casino in Kenosha.

The election is long over - but politics wasn’t the reason for the long delay, the governor’s people have said. The reason was the need for careful study and enough time to gather all the relevant information.

Seems to us that the administration has had time enough by now.

And now there’s this: An attorney advising Walker on the issue says in a letter that the governor probably doesn’t have the authority to compensate the Potawatomi tribe for any financial losses it would suffer at its Milwaukee casino as a result of the Kenosha casino opening, the Journal Sentinel reported last week.

The Menominee have promised to make up any Potawatomi losses, but there’s a possibility that the state would have to step in if the Menominee for some reason fail to make those payments. R. Lance Boldrey, the Michigan attorney advising Walker, said in a letter to federal officials that Walker doesn’t have the authority to commit state dollars to cover that bill. State legislators must approve appropriations, he wrote.

The letter was sent to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs after an arbitration panel ruled that the state would have to indemnify - or guarantee payment to - the Potawatomi for any revenue lost to the proposed Kenosha casino. The arbitration was required by the state’s earlier compact agreement with the Potawatomi tribe.

So there’s another obstacle. Other downsides include a loss of jobs in Milwaukee and a blow to the region’s economy. There’s a good argument that the gambling market is saturated. Demand for both the state lottery and casino gaming has “slowed significantly,” according to a 2012 study commissioned by the conservative think tank Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. Another casino does not grow the pot; it just takes money out of others’ pots.

Yes, a Menominee casino could help the tribe deal with the severe poverty that cripples Menominee County, the poorest county in the state. But another answer should be found; the answer shouldn’t come at the expense of the Potawatomi and Milwaukee.

It’s time for the governor to stop studying and make a decision. — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Dec. 6


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