It appears Hard Rock International has a plan to expand its US gambling footprint, and those plans include Wisconsin.
Kenosha Landco Co. LLC recently put down $100,000 for the option to purchase 60 acres of land from the Village of Bristol for $15 million. Wisconsin law permits only tribal entities to own and operate casinos. In this case, Hard Rock would need to find a tribal partner to open a casino.
Tribal gaming expansion and a casino in Wisconsin
The Seminole Tribe owns and operates the Hard Rock brand and has been eyeing other jurisdictions outside its home state of Florida. Over the last year, Hard Rock has expanded to Nevada, Virginia, California, and Illinois.
In July, the tribe acquired Mirage Las Vegas in December and opened Virginia’s first casino, Hard Rock Bristol. The company also has projects pending in Jamaica and Greece.
Speaking with Travel Weekly, Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock and CEO of Seminole Gaming, had this to say:
“Historically, we do anywhere from 10 to 15 hotels a year and 15 to 20 Hard Rock Cafes a year, so there are some 70 or so different projects that we’re working on to expand the Hard Rock brand at any given time.”
This isn’t the first time Hard Rock has tried to expand into Wisconsin. In 2013, the company partnered with the Menominee tribe on an $800 million hotel and casino at the shuttered Dairyland Greyhound Park. Unfortunately, the project was vetoed by then-Gov. Scott Walker.
Wisconsin casino is an ideal opportunity
Bristol Village Board President Mike Farrell told the Wisconsin Spotlight the Seminoles offered the highest pricetag to the community.
“[It was] somewhere between $15 million and $16 million,” he said. “It’s simply a land sale. The intent is very simply to maximize our return to our taxpayers in the Village of Bristol.”
Kenosha is located near the Illinois-Wisconsin border and is thus considered a prime territory to lure gamblers from southern Wisconsin and the Chicago-land area. However, several steps must occur before a casino happens.
Some steps include putting land into trust and receiving Gov. Tony Evers‘ stamp of approval. Additionally, any tribe partnering with the Seminoles could expect an aggressive lobbying campaign against the project.
In a statement, the Potawatomi tribe said:
“The Potawatomi are opposed to a Florida tribe — with no connections to Wisconsin — coming to the state to open a casino.”
The Seminoles would also have to contend with other organizations that oppose the expansion of gambling. Lorri Pickens of Citizens Against Expanded Gambling told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel a casino does little to help a community.
“It’s really wrong for a government to make so much money off the losses of its citizens.”