The Ed: Walker’s Casino Gamble

This week’s editorial from Morning Martini’s Martinicast:

Scott Walker may be losing control of the Kenosha casino situation.

It wasn’t a simple no, after which the Menominee and the wealthy Seminole – who stand to make untold riches – just go home. Now they’ve offered to spare taxpayers and pick up $200 million for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena, claiming there will be no strings. That’s two massive projects, all at no cost to the taxpayers.

By turning that down and standing on his first decision, Walker portrays himself as a steadfast leader. But he could be exposing himself to a huge PR risk that can spiral out of control.


Yes, this will keep the Keshino dead. But it might also anger GOP legislators, kill Walker’s agenda, and sink the entire Bucks arena.

And now, Keshino advocates are claiming that Illinois officials are ready to pounce on the opportunity that Wisconsin has apparently passed up.

I’m from La Crosse, and prior to this, I didn’t care about the casino. Now – though it still seems very distant – its impact might be touching my own pocketbook, and now I care.

That might be the very idea. The $200 million offer by the Menominee could simply be a bluff, knowing there aren’t any circumstances that the Governor would say yes. In fact the Gov’s office is defending the decision by saying they don’t believe the offer was made in good faith – that it could be a bluff.

Regardless, if the Menominee didn’t know before, they know now: Walker’s not backing down. So what’s to stop that heavily Democratic tribe from using the issue to get revenge against the Governor? What’s to stop them from upping the ante – knowing Walker’s response – by, let’s say offering $300 million in financial aid for low-income students trying to attend a UW school.

Or $400 million. Or $500 million. For Walker, this could get out of hand quickly, with each offering being a multi-day news story . The ramifications could go national. Maybe. That’s the risk.

Regardless, the Keshino situation is blowing up, and all the chips seem to be in the Menominee’s corner. Consider the irony: Walker’s biggest gamble might not have been Act 10 or other conservative reforms. Ironically, it could be a gamble on turning down a casino.


About the writer: Chris Rochester has worked in communications and finance for a state Senate and congressional campaign, consulted on numerous Assembly and local races, and has held leadership roles in his local Republican Party. He's communications director for the MacIver Institute. Commentary here is strictly his own.