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Potawatomi's influence in the city should be protected.

Potawatomi deserves to have Kenosha proposal turned down

How foolish we all were to think that the election on Nov. 4 would mean the end to the tsunami of absurd and unbelievable television ads in the Milwaukee market.

We seemed, somehow, to forget about the pitched battle between the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee and the Menomonee tribe that wants to build a casino in Kenosha. There are millions of dollars being spent by both sides to talk about how good they are and how bad the other guys are.

I agree with Governor Scott Walker that these expenditures are a huge waste of money because the only person who matters now is the governor. He has until Feb. 19 to make a decision whether Kenosha gets the casino or not.

I think it's safe to say that whichever side loses will file a lawsuit, and I think it's safe to assume that they are going to lose. The ruling will be made on the "who gets to decide" concept, and it's clear that Walker gets to decide.

The arguments have pretty much been made by both sides. It's not as if someone has a bombshell to drop that will sway the decision. A recent Marquette University Law School poll shows support for Kenosha, including strong support in Milwaukee.

But what's the best thing that could do?

I think it's safe to say that the Kenosha casino will cannibalize the one in Milwaukee to some degree. It's happened all over the country when a new gambling outlet has been established. Other gambling outlets feel the pinch.

There is a strong temptation here to say, "So what if there's another casino. And so what if the Potawatomi take a financial hit?" It's easier to say it doesn't make any difference if there's one or two casinos in our area.

But I'm pretty sure the easy answers are not the best answers.

The Potawatomi footprint has become a pretty big one in Milwaukee – not just the gambling, the events or the shows but as a player and and a source of charitable giving that has made an impact.

The "Miracle on Canal Street" program has given over $13.5 million to more than 500 children's charities since they started in 1994. Last year, they cracked the $1 million mark. In addition, the tribe's foundation has given over $35 million to various causes. The tribe and casino are not the biggest charitable giver in Milwaukee, but they could well be put into the significant category.

If they take a big financial hit, it's logical to assume that it would be hard for them to keep up their level of giving. And I think it's a stretch to think that a Kenosha casino would be interested in picking up the slack for Milwaukee area children's charities.

The Potawatomi have also now moved into the top 25 employers in Milwaukee with over 3,000 employees. Kenosha is an employment-challenged city, with an unemployment rate of just over 8 percent.

Normally I'm not a parochial guy, and I like to think that I embrace the big picture. But in this case, I want to be a protectionist.

I would hate to see the Potawatomi casino be reduced to a minor influence in Milwaukee. I don't think gambling dollars are a good thing to base a state budget on. But I think charities can count on the support they get from those dollars, and if there is uncertainty about those contributions, I can easily see valuable program services to this city's children being cut.

Sorry, Kenosha, but I just think Milwaukee is more important.


Talkbacks

TheyThink | Nov. 21, 2014 at 5:39 p.m. (report)

So Dave, you have no issue with the Potawatomi cannibalizing other downtown hotels desperate for business by building their own massive downtown hotel hoping to steal business away from other downtown Milwaukee hotels??? Funny how you fail to mention your boy former Gov. Jim "Bingo" Doyle who "negotiated" outrageously one-sided gaming compacts which have led us to today's stalemate. The MARKET will decide if two casinos in SE Wisconsin are viable. Studies have shown that yes, two casinos can thrive in SE Wisconsin, especially given the proximity to northern Illinois and the potential draw from there.

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PMD | Nov. 21, 2014 at 9:37 a.m. (report)

I don't like it when new Starbucks open because they take business away from local coffee shops. Years ago I didn't want new Barnes & Noble or Blockbuster stores to open, because they took away from local bookstores and independent video stores. Such is life. Isn't that the free market?

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