The two local politicians who represent the area where a proposed Hard Rock International entertainment center and casino would be located have differing views on the matter.
Earlier this month, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin announced it was partnering with Florida-based Hard Rock International to relaunch the tribe’s efforts to open a venue on the west side of the City of Kenosha. Because Hard Rock International is owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida the organization must partner with a Wisconsin tribe to open a casino here under state law.
While previous plans called for the Menominee Hard Rock entertainment center and casino to be built at the site of the former Dairyland dog track, the new site being proposed is just west of Interstate 94 on about 60 acres of land in the city.
The property was previously owned by the Village of Bristol. The Village Board and the Community Development Authority recently voted unanimously to sell nearly 59.91 acres of land for $15,213,221. The area is located in the City of Kenosha because of a longstanding boundary agreement between the two Kenosha County municipalities. Any approvals for development on the land must come through the City of Kenosha because the land is located in city limits.
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City Council Ald. Dominic Ruffalo said he supports the efforts of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin to construct the center on the west side of the city. He represents the city’s 16th District.
“At this point I approve of it, yes,” Ruffalo said. “I think it will be smaller than the original casino they were going to build here, but I don’t have any problems with it coming into my district at all. The people who don’t support it are more verbal than the people who support it. I think it’s a great location and Hard Rock is a first class operation and they are teaming up with the Menominee because Menominee is a Wisconsin tribe. The city will be negotiating with the Menominee like they did before.”
Ruffalo said that about 80% of the people he’s spoken to in his district support the casino and fears of increased crime are not justified.
“Very seldom do I frequent casinos myself, but if somebody else wants to go that’s fine with me,” Ruffalo said. “I want to see Kenosha as more of a destination and not just a pass-through. There’s plenty of area there to expand. I was happy when I heard about it. … As it sits right now, I don’t have a problem with it whatsoever. In fact, I’m looking forward to it.”
Ruffalo said he wants to make sure the city “gets something out of it” and that there are still “a lot of hoops to go through before a shovel is put in the ground.”
Supervisor John Franco represents the 13th District on the Kenosha County Board of Supervisors. He disagrees.
“I have mixed feelings with the potential of a casino development in Kenosha County’s District 13,” Franco said in a statement. “Certainly, a casino would bring in revenue and create jobs; however, I have many concerns with the venture as a whole. District 13 has seen enormous growth in both residential housing and business development over the years. A casino would increase traffic congestion on major east/west highways bordering residential areas (such as Highway K and State Highway 50).”
Franco also said the casino and would strain local public resources and negatively impact property values in nearby residential subdivisions.
“In short, District 13 is a thriving business and residential area that, in my opinion, does not need a casino. I fear that the numerous negative consequences of a casino will overshadow the possible benefits. Ultimately, I believe local governments need to be cautious when chasing after potential revenue. The debacle of Foxconn comes to mind.”