Menominee Tribal Chair On Proposed Kenosha Casino

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Menominee Tribal Chair On Proposed Kenosha Casino

Premiere Date: 
November 8, 2013

Craig Corn says he hopes Gov. Walker will approve the proposed Menominee casino.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

Now to the high-stakes proposal to build a new casino in Kenosha. The Menominee Nation's $800 million vision for the gaming resort includes restaurants, a 400-room luxury hotel, convention center and theater. You want jobs? Menominee tribal officials say their plan will bring thousands of jobs with benefits to Kenosha. First up, 1400 construction jobs to build the resort over the next two years. Governor Scott Walker has yet to green light the development. Among other things, he asked for unanimous consent from all of Wisconsin's Indian nations before making a decision. Two, the Forest County Potawatomi and Ho-Chunk, are opposed. The holdout tribes fear loss of revenue through competition with their own gaming operations. A Potawatomi representative was unable to join us tonight. In a statement, a Potawatomi spokesperson said, “After a careful, serious and good-faith review, the Potawatomi cannot support this Kenosha casino application because of the corruption associated with it and the hundreds of millions of dollars that will be sent to the out-of-state gambling interests invested in the project.” We're joined now by the chairman of the Menominee Nation, Craig Corn. He's in Green Bay. Chairman, thanks very much for joining us.

Craig Corn:

Thank you. Thank you for having me and letting us let the Menominee Nation message get out there. 

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, first off I want to ask you to respond to that statement that we've received from the Potawatomi that, “corruption associated” with your proposed casino project and the “hundreds of millions of dollars that will be sent to out-of-state gambling interests invested in that project.” How do you respond to that?

Craig Corn:

I think that, you know,  they've always, you know, talked about the corruption. You know, the VIA did a very thorough review. It's been a nine-year process, and there's no corruption or any of those claims involved. If you look at the potential money going out-of-state, you know, they're investors. Seminole Hard Rock is potentially our developer and manager of the project. And  yes, there will be fees that will be associated with that development and management, but, you know, a vast majority of the money will stay here in Wisconsin. You know, if you look at our proposal, we propose to increase our payments to the state from 7.5 up to 10, 11, potentially 12 for a period of time, to cover the losses that the two opposing tribes claim that they have. So, you know, we're trying to address all of their needs. And I think we're on a good track.

Frederica Freyberg:

So in terms of –

Craig Corn:

The right track.

Frederica Freyberg:

In terms of that promise to kind of give back some of your profit to the opposing tribes, the Potawatomi and the Ho-Chunk, how has that been received by those nations?  

Craig Corn:

We haven't heard. Last time that we heard from the Ho-Chunk Nation was a statement in regards to the governor giving Menominee false hope. That's the last time that we've publicly heard from the Ho-Chunk nation. We sent out letters to Ho-Chunk and Forest County Potawatomi to sit down and meet and to discuss ways that we can move forward and to address their potential losses that they may have. And I believe you-- you know, you heard in the reply from the Forest County spokesman that, you know, there's no chance that they would come to the table and sit down and have the discussions with us.  

Frederica Freyberg:

In terms of hope or false hope, excuse me, what kinds of signals are you getting from Governor Walker about whether some of those kinds of ideas about profit-sharing, or even the fact that Speaker Vos says he wants this project to go ahead, even though the governor had these really kind of tough requirements going in, what kind of signals are you now getting from him? 

Craig Corn:

I think when we made our proposal, when the Menominee and Seminole Hard Rock went to the governor's office and we made our proposal, I think that, you know, I really give the governor a lot of praise for, you know, listening to Menominee and, you know, really reviewing the process. We let out our argument. There was a process to get the yes. And I can't say enough for his leadership. You know, he's taking the time to do that. You know, and we really appreciate that. Because there is a path to yes. Nobody would be hurt. Everybody would be made whole. And the state would gain. 3300 full-time employees at the facility, 1400 construction jobs, 1800 indirect jobs, millions to the state, so–

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, do you think that's the most persuasive argument for the governor, the jobs?  

Craig Corn:

I think that's one of the keys. I think that, you know, he does-- he hears Menominee's message. You know, we're one of-- one-- I think we are the poorest tribe in Wisconsin. And I think that he hears our pleas and, you know, he's reviewing the project to see how we can get to a yes. And I really appreciate that he hears our message.

Frederica Freyberg:

In terms of the state financially of your tribe, how meaningful would this casino be at the former dog track there in Kenosha to your tribe and its members?  

Craig Corn:

It would be-- it will rank right up there next to restoration, we’re restored back. If you look at Menominee's history, in early '50s, we were terminated, and were restored in the early '70s. And this decision and this project would go down in Menominee history as one of the historic events. I mean, if you-- as a chairman, I hear every day how people say, can you help me with my gas? I got my lights turned off. Can you help me with my lights. I don't have no food. This would give us the opportunity to help with them needs. You know, the tribe is currently operating on a continuing resolution at 95% of last year's budget. You know, so we're feeling the effects of the government shutdown and sequestration. There's a lot of services that can't be provided. You know, this project would go a long way towards helping address a lot of our unmet needs. And, you know, we would never-- you know, some of the other tribes, they give out a $78,000 per year per tribal member. One of the other tribes, I believe, gives out $12,000 a year per tribal member. We would never have that ability and we would never do anything like that. We're too big of a tribe. We have a large-- very large infrastructure and we have a lot of services that we provide to our tribal members. So every penny of that resource would go towards addressing those unmet needs of our tribal members.

Frederica Freyberg:

And so, again, those individual members would not be getting, kind of, checks in the mail as a result of the profits from this casino.

Craig Corn:

No, they would not. We have a ten-year plan, tribal ordinance, as to how we're going to allocate those resources. Rebuild a 100-year-old tribal school, expand on our clinic, provide housing for our membership, invest in their college, invest in education for our children. So we have a ten-year plan laid out for the revenues of the Kenosha project.

Frederica Freyberg:

What happens, Chairman, what do you do if it's rejected?

Craig Corn:

Well, I think we'll probably have to sit down and look at what-- what our options are. You know, it would be-- really be-- I don't know how you'd say it. We would basically be stuck forever, for the rest of our lives, in that 72 out of 72 counties, in poor health, you know, unemployment. That's what we would have to look forward to. And it would basically be killing our tribe. That's what it would probably boil down to.

Frederica Freyberg:

We need to leave it there. Chairman Craig Corn, thanks very much for joining us.

Craig Corn:

Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. Hopefully we can find a solution for a win/win/win, win for Menominee, win for Kenosha and win for Wisconsin. Look forward to it. Thank you guys for hearing Menominee's plea. 


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