Guest column: Wisconsin’s Gaming History says Menominee Tribal Casino in Kenosha should be approved

State Rep. Samantha Kerkman /Contributed photo

State Rep. Samantha Kerkman /Contributed photo

By State Rep. Samantha Kerkman

Since the debate has intensified about the Menominee casino proposed for Kenosha, I have wondered about how we came to this point in the discussion of gaming in Wisconsin. I learned that gaming has been a divisive issue ever since the creation of our state in 1848. All forms of gaming were prohibited by the state constitution when it was first adopted, however, many laws have changed since then to allow certain gaming activities under certain circumstances. Between 1965 and 1987, voters approved amendments to the constitution to allow sweepstakes, charitable bingo games and raffles, and on-track pari-mutuel wagering and racing (for example, betting at a dog racing track). In 1987, voters also approved the creation of the state lottery.

Indian gaming came to be when the federal government passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in 1988. This law allowed Indian tribes the exclusive right to operate gaming activity on tribal lands in order to encourage tribal economic development and self-sufficiency, and strengthen tribal governments. Per the law, tribes can only operate off-reservation casinos if the federal Department of the Interior determines that the gaming establishment on newly-acquired lands would be in the best interests of the tribe, would not harm the surrounding community, and if it meets the approval of the state’s governor. In 1991 and 1992, 11 Wisconsin tribes, including the Potawatomi and the Menominee, entered into gaming compacts with the State of Wisconsin and began operating casinos.

Gaming compacts between tribes and the state must be renewed periodically, and can be amended. The compact with the Menominee Tribe was amended in 2000 to include provisions for an off-reservation casino in Kenosha. The US Department of the Interior denied the Menominee’s 2009 request for federal approval of the proposal, but in 2011, the Department agreed to reconsider the decision. The Menominee resubmitted an application, and it was formally approved in August of 2013.

That brings us to our current situation. The Menominee Tribe have fulfilled every legal requirement to establish a casino in Kenosha. The final step is Governor Walker’s approval. As you can see, we have come a long way to get to this point. The Menominee have worked hard for many years in hopes of building a casino in Kenosha, which will surely help strengthen their tribe. The casino will also bring countless benefits to the state and the region. Despite the Potawatomi Tribe’s opposition, the Menominee have a right to go ahead with this project. Kenosha County is certainly in favor, approving a 2004 referendum on the question. I trust that Governor Walker will make the right choice to approve the project.

State Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Randall) represents the 61st Assembly District, which includes most of Western Kenosha County.




  1. Diane says:

    Thank you Samantha for posting the facts. I do hope our Governor sees that approving the Casino in Kenosha will benefit everyone.

  2. Matt says:

    Whether or not it goes in Kenosha, it will be built. The Potawatami should take whatever incentives are being offered, or its going to go in 15 minutes south of the border, and they lose everything! Don’t be greedy Potawatami..don’t be greedy!

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