Potawatomi video ad attacks Kenosha casino

BY JOE POTENTE
jpotente@kenoshanews.com
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The Forest County Potawatomi Tribe is back in the fray with a video ad slamming the Menominee Nation’s Kenosha casino proposal.

Echoing prior campaigns, the 30-second spot highlights the out-of-state interests that have been involved with the long-running effort to develop a $1 billion casino complex on the former Dairyland Greyhound Park site.

The Potawatomi, operators of a Milwaukee casino — the proposed Menominee project’s closest competitor — have long opposed the Kenosha plan on those stated grounds.

“The Kenosha casino proposal will cause jobs and money to leave Wisconsin,” Potawatomi spokesman George Ermert said in a prepared statement. “We don’t need to help wealthy, out-of-state gaming interests make millions at the expense of thousands of Wisconsin jobs.”

Separate from an ongoing campaign by Enough Already!, an advocacy organization that opposes the expansion of off-reservation gambling in Wisconsin, the new ad is the first such effort by the Potawatomi in at least a few years.

It comes as the Menominee are expecting a project ruling from the U.S. Department of the Interior. That would kick the project to its final hurdle, Gov. Scott Walker’s desk.

‘Disgusting, desperate’

Lisa Waukau, Menominee vice chairwoman, said she believes Walker is the target of what she called a disgusting, desperate attempt on behalf of the Potawatomi.

“They’ve poured thousands and thousands of dollars into this ad campaign, where that lady is talking about who developed, who they say is developing the Kenosha casino,” Waukau said, referencing the Enough Already! campaign, in which the Potawatomi have denied being involved.

“They conveniently forget who developed theirs, and they conveniently forget that they are hundreds of miles from their own little reservation up in Crandon,” Waukau added. “They think everybody else has forgotten, also.”

The new Potawatomi ad now appears online and, according to a Milwaukee media report, is slated to air soon on Milwaukee and Madison TV stations. Ermert declined Thursday to release details of the tribe’s media plans.

In the spot, images of other states, including a California surfer and the iconic “Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas” sign float across the screen as a male voice intones, “There’s been a lot of attempts by out-of-state interests to build a casino in Kenosha.”

The ad goes on to mention Dairyland’s Alabama-based ownership, the Connecticut based Mohegan Tribe and KMD Consulting, a California-based firm that was briefly the project’s developer before pulling out last year. The Mohegan Tribe, which was the developer before KMD, still stands to receive millions, the spot notes.

“Wisconsin gaming is for Wisconsin, not some out-of-staters,” the ad concludes.

Eric Olson, Kenosha project director for the Menominee, disputed that notion.

Olson referenced past studies indicating the proposed development would result in $73 million in direct purchases from southeastern Wisconsin businesses, plus $93 million in indirect benefits.

Tribe still plugging

The Menominee are soldiering on with their Kenosha effort, in spite of the negative ads and a continued uncertainty over how Walker might rule if the application receives federal approval.

Walker, who has said he needs the consensus of all 11 state tribes before he approves any new off-reservation casinos, reiterated that stance in a Thursday newspaper interview, The Associated Press reported.

Waukau described the casino project as a comparable, but safer, alternative to the mining legislation that passed the state Senate on Wednesday and is likely to win the governor’s approval once it clears the Assembly.

“We’ll see when we get it on his desk,” Waukau said. “Three thousand jobs — they’re willing to do the mining up in the Bad River area for the same amount of jobs, and this is not going to impact the environment one iota.”

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