MADISON, Wisconsin — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants six more months to make a decision on whether to approve the Menominee tribe's Kenosha casino project, a delay that would push his deadline to beyond the November election.
Walker released a letter Friday co-signed by the tribe asking the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs to extend the original deadline from Aug. 23 to Feb. 19. Walker and tribal chairwoman Laurie Boivin say in the letter that more time is needed to "develop and analyze independent data, and facilitate discussions with the interested parties."
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 tribe wants to build the casino complex on the grounds of the old Dairyland Greyhound dog track in Kenosha.
Walker has said he wouldn't approve the casino unless all of the state's 11 tribes agree to it. But the Ho-Chunk and Forest County Potawatomi tribes, which operate other casinos in Wisconsin, have steadfastly opposed the proposal.
In addition to unanimous agreement among the tribes, Walker said the casino needed community support and must result in no new net gambling.
Walker's administration has ordered an independent analysis of the economic impact of the proposed casino and entertainment complex that would include a Hard Rock Hotel. The Menominee have said the $800 million project will create 5,000 direct and indirect jobs, while the Potawatomi have said it will cost the Milwaukee area where that tribe operates a rival casino about 3,000 jobs.
Economic impact was not one of the original criteria Walker said he would use for deciding whether he would approve the project.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke's spokesman issued a statement criticizing Walker for seeking a delay in the decision until after the election.
"Now that he's facing an opponent in Mary Burke with a proven track record of creating jobs it's clear he is trying to save face," Burke's spokesman Joe Zepecki said. "Today's request is simply another example of Walker playing politics rather than focusing on the needs of the people of Wisconsin."
Walker and Boivin said in the letter they needed more time to arrive at a "fully informed decision."
The Menominee and Hard Rock Casino issued a joint statement in support of Walker taking more time.
"The Menominee-Hard Rock team believes the ultimate analysis will demonstrate that the Kenosha casino will provide significant benefits to the state," the statement said.