MADISON, Wisconsin — Gov. Scott Walker on Monday said he was directing his top aide to begin "extensive discussions" with tribal governments interested in the proposal to open a casino in Kenosha.
Walker gave no timeline for when he will announce his decision on whether to approve the $800 million casino project proposed by the Menominee tribe and Hard Rock International.
Walker has final say on whether the casino can open, even though the project was approved by the U.S. Department of Interior in August. The Menominee tribe has been pushing for opening an off-reservation casino for more than 20 years, saying it will help pull their tribal members out of poverty.
The Menominee want to build the casino complex on the grounds of the old Dairyland Greyhound dog track in Kenosha. The Ho-Chunk and Forest County Potawatomi tribes, which already operate large and lucrative casinos in Wisconsin, have steadfastly opposed the proposal.
Walker said Monday he was directing Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch to spearhead the talks "in an effort to maximize job creation in our state."
The Menominee argue the casino will create 5,000 direct and in-direct jobs, while the Potawatomi say it will cost the Milwaukee area about 3,000 jobs. Walker said during an afternoon visit to a veterans hospital in Milwaukee that it was hard to sort out the competing claims, and the state might hire a consultant to take a look at the numbers.
The Republican governor said his main concern was maximizing the number of jobs in the state, and that could entail some changes to the Menominee's proposal. He summed up his directive to Huebsch as "let's figure out some way to get to a win-win."
Two years ago Walker said he would only approve a new casino if there is community support, "no net gaming," and backing from all 11 of Wisconsin's tribes.
The Potawatomi reiterated their opposition to the project Monday.
"Following his review, we expect that Governor Walker will find that this project does not meet his criteria and is not in the best interests of Wisconsin," Potawatomi attorney general Jeff Crawford said in a statement.
A spokesman for the Ho-Chunk did not immediately return a message seeking reaction to Walker's latest statement.
Walker, who had said he hoped to decide on the Menominee casino proposal by last week, on Monday didn't give himself any deadline. Instead, he said he will "invest the time necessary to reach a positive solution for the state."
Associated Press writer M.L. Johnson in Milwaukee contributed to this report.