Kenosha Casino a bad bet for Milwaukee minorities

The Milwaukee Urban League is asking the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to take a closer look at the impacts a proposed $1 billion off-reservation casino in Kenosha, WI will have on Milwaukee’s minority community.

The federal government recently issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) which analyzes the impacts the proposed casino may have on the community and region. However, according to the Urban League, the FEIS fails to properly examine the impacts the project will have on Milwaukee and its’ minority community.

“…it appears the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has not taken into consideration any impacts this gaming project will have on minority communities in Milwaukee as part of its environmental justice review. In fact, the FEIS does not even include Milwaukee in any analysis of disproportionately high and adverse effects on minority and low-income populations,” said Ralph Hollmon, president and CEO of the Milwaukee Urban League, in a recent letter to the BIA.

In the letter to the BIA from the Urban League and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the groups point out that Milwaukee is Wisconsin’s largest metropolitan area and home to the state’s largest minority population. The most recent census data shows that minorities make up 58 percent of the population in Milwaukee. Given Milwaukee’s large minority population, and its close proximity to the proposed gaming site, the Urban League and Hispanic Chamber believe that the federal government has a responsibility to examine the impacts this project will have on the area’s minorities.

“Because of the significant number of minorities, and the close proximity of the proposed gaming facility (Milwaukee is 25 miles from the proposed gaming site), it is imperative that the BIA fulfills its responsibility as a federal agency to investigate and determine any disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects from this project on minority and low-income populations,” said Hollmon. The Urban League believes that building a casino in Kenosha would lead to job losses which would hurt minorities in Milwaukee particularly hard.

According to casino officials, Potawatomi Bingo Casino is one of the largest employers of minorities in the Milwaukee area. Of their 2,600 employees, 53 percent are minorities and men, and 84 percent of their employees reside in Milwaukee County.

“In addition to employing a large number of minorities, the Forest County Potawatomi Community annually provides millions of dollars in revenue sharing to the city and county of Milwaukee which help fund crucial programs that benefit Milwaukee’s minority communities. Coupled with the additional millions of dollars in charitable funds that the FCPC provides, the overall positive impact the FCPC has on Milwaukee-area minorities is immeasurable,” said Hollmon.

Ralph Hollmon

“The negative and disproportionate impact on the Milwaukee African American and Hispanic communities from the proposed Kenosha casino will be significant and that does not include what we fear will be a further erosion on minority employment as PBC vendors will also be impaired,” added Hollmon.

The Menominee Tribe, sponsors of the proposed Kenosha casino, have committed to hiring residents in Kenosha and Racine counties first for any jobs at the casino. Milwaukee County residents are third in line for any jobs.

The off-reservation casino for Kenosha was first proposed by the Menominee Tribe in 2004. After originally being rejected by the federal government in 2009, the project is now getting a second review. In addition to obtaining federal approval, the project would also need approval from Governor Scott Walker.