Walker’s conditions are tough, but Beloit still has strong case to make.
HERE IN BELOIT, does news that a Kenosha off-reservation casino has won approval at the federal level bode good or bad for this community’s long-delayed casino complex?
As far as the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs process goes, this would appear to be good news. There was a time, under the Bush administration, when casino applications were going nowhere. BIA approval of the Kenosha concept means federal authorities are making fair decisions again.
The Beloit casino plan by the Ho-Chunk Nation is under review at the BIA’s regional level. If Kenosha can win approval, so can Beloit.
THEN WHAT? Under the law, if federal approval is granted for a tribal casino plan, the proposal goes on for a final decision by the state’s governor. Local communities can’t make the decision. Legislators have no say. It’s thumbs up or thumbs down from the governor.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has addressed in the past how he would approach any casino plan that arrived on his desk with federal approval. He reiterated that stand Friday after the Kenosha BIA decision was announced.
Walker has established three conditions that must be met in his deliberations. They are:
• Local community support.
• No new net gaming in the state.
• The 11 sovereign tribes must reach consensus.
THAT’S A HIGH BAR. Truth is, it may be too high for most proposals to clear.
Local support generally is not an issue. Casino developments promise hundreds of millions of dollars in construction; hundreds of construction jobs; and hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs once facilities are up and running. Few communities would turn that down.
But the idea of no new net gaming is tough. To meet that condition, another gaming facility might have to close to make room for a new one.
The biggest impediment, though, certainly is for the 11 tribes to reach consensus. The nations often do not see eye-to-eye on various issues and sometimes feud with each other energetically. Moreover, the tribal casinos compete for entertainment dollars. The Potawatomi, for example, operate a lucrative casino in Milwaukee, and estimate a Kenosha gaming facility would cut tens of millions of dollars off their annual revenue. Reaching consensus with the Potawatomi, obviously, will be problematic.
THE BELOIT CASINO PLAN is different. The Ho-Chunk Nation has a previous compact with the state allowing the tribe to open one more casino in Wisconsin. How would Walker view that stipulation in the compact, since he didn’t negotiate it? Good question.
To our way of thinking, the governor’s conditions are unrealistic. And, we suspect, he knows that. But it gives him cover to say no, if he’s so inclined.
If the BIA gives the Ho-Chunk the green light in Beloit, as the agency did in Kenosha, we hope the governor eases back a bit. He should recognize the unique provision in the compact. He should see the strong need for investment and jobs in Beloit. He should see the geographic advantage of locating a facility on the state line, at the gateway to Wisconsin.