Tribe offers arena bucks for casino

Feb 16, 2015 5:11 PM

Rejection by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker of the bid to put a casino on the grounds of a failed greyhound track in Kenosha might have looked like the end of a months-long battle but that attitude would have been wrong.

Last week, the Menominee Nation, the tribe seeking approval of an $800 million casino project, approached the subject from a completely different point of view. The tribe offered to pay the state’s contribution toward a new Milwaukee Bucks arena if the governor would reverse his decision.

The governor’s state budget calls for the issuance of $220 million in state bonds to help pay for the new arena. Menominee Chairman Gary Besaw said he felt the tribe’s offer would help Walker, who is considering a 2016 presidential run, get off the hook from his previous decision.

“Providing public funding for sports facilities is always a dicey political proposition,” he was quoted by the AP’s Todd Richmond, as saying.

“Our proposal eliminates a big political problem and creates a major advantage to state taxpayers. We want Wisconsin to stay big-league. But, we also want to help make sure state taxpayers don’t bear the financial burden of keeping the team.” Besaw said. 

Walker, who took months to announce his decision on the Kenosha proposal, expressed concern that approval of the project would be extremely costly to the state, since current tribal gaming compacts would be jeopardized by the development of another tribal casino.

A spokesperson for Walker said it was the governor’s plan to pay off the state bonds for the arena through expected growth in income taxes on Bucks players and players from visiting teams.

As for the Menominee decision, a spokesman said, “The governor made a decision and we’ve moved on.”

Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin did not take a position on the Menominee offer to pay part of the arena costs. He said only that he was excited about Walker’s bonding plan and wanted to follow the governor’s lead.

Ray Poirier is the longtime executive editor at GamingToday.

Contact Ray at [email protected].