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What Happens in Kenosha Stays in Kenosha

Michaeljon Murphy, Vice Chairman

By: Michaeljon Murphy
Vice Chairman
Constitution Party of Wisconsin

 

 

It has been troubling to watch the progress of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, in partnership with Hard Rock International, march forward in plans for a new Kenosha casino.  The project is planned for a spot west of Interstate 94 near Highway 50.  It will include 1,500 slot machines, more than fifty table games, and the ability to make on-site bets on sporting events.  To make the gambling more palatable, the site will feature restaurants, a hotel and a Hard Rock Café with live entertainment.

Not in My Backyard?

On January 3, the proposal was approved by the Kenosha City Common Council in an 11-6 vote.  Common Council President Rocco Lamacchia said he had heard from a number of constituents prior to the vote, with about half in support and half in opposition.  He ended up supporting the proposal.  “It’s hard for me as an alderman to turn down the money that they say they’re going to give us, 3% of sales, which could be anywhere from $3 million to $8.5 million a year. It’s hard to say no to that,” Lamacchia said.  John Bush of the local group Citizens Against Expanded Gaming commented, “Why do we have to rely on something that brings addiction, that brings negative consequences to bring union jobs?  Why can’t we find something positive for the community?”  Lamacchia appeared to paint the opposition as coming from outsiders however, saying, “We had a lot of people from outside of the city like Somers, Pleasant Prairie, Bristol, against it, but it’s not in their territory. It’s in the city of Kenosha.”

Apparently, Mr. Lamaccchia is borrowing a line from another famous gambling city: “What happens in Kenosha stays in Kenosha.”  However, this talisman may not have the power he hopes for.  I’m sure he is expecting that the tax revenue will remain in Kenosha, but will the litany of ills that gambling brings with it remain there as well?

Some of the Ills of Gambling

Slot machines at Monte Carlo hotel, Las Vegas

Tristan Surtel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

  • 65% of compulsive gamblers commit crimes to finance their gambling.
  • Gambling related embezzlements continue to rise in Wisconsin.

Will the crime stay in Kenosha?

  • Suicide rates are 20 times higher among pathological gamblers compared to non-gamblers.

Will these tragic deaths stay in Kenosha?

  • Studies show that the Wisconsin casino market is already over-saturated; having a casino within 10 miles of home creates a 90% increase in the odds of someone becoming a pathological or problem gambler.

Will the gambling addictions stay in Kenosha?  The stats on this one seem to favor Lamacchia.

One of the selling points of the tribe is that the development will bring tourism (they estimate over 2 million visitors yearly), so it is not a good bet that the problems will stay in Kenosha.  Many other areas will pay for the bad decisions of the local government.  It is a sad state that most politicians seem easily swayed by the glittering gold of tax dollars and overlook the social impacts of their policies.  They will likely find that they are panning for fool’s gold.  Citizens Against Gambling says, “A 2022 economic brief from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond examined the impact of casinos from a variety of social and economic perspectives. They found that, ‘despite tax revenues being a major motivator for state legalization of casinos, there is little evidence that they boost state taxes.’”

The Next Steps

The Kenosha County Board later moved the project forward with a close 10-9 vote that was finally decided after 1:00am on January 17 following hours of debate.  On February 6, the tribe signed an intergovernmental agreement with city and county officials.  These documents will be part of the tribe’s application to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which will need to designate the land as a reservation, then the process will require the signature of Governor Evers.  Ronald J. Corn, Sr., the Menominee Tribe chairman is hopeful that the process ends in approval within a year or two.

The Constitution Party of Wisconsin recognizes gambling as a social evil and calls for the repeal of legislation enabling tribal casinos in our state.

A Modest Proposal

One of the best illustrations of the true nature of legalized gambling came from offbeat comedian Emo Philips.  On June 1, 1992, The Chicago Sun-Times printed his editorial with the biting wit of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal.  I leave you with Emo’s commentary.

Since the Illinois lottery, riverboat gambling and legalized horse racing have already provided Illinois with jobs and revenue, I see no reason not to implement the Chicago casino proposal immediately. In fact, there are many kindred opportunities.

The simplest of these would be the shell game. After completing an approved two-week course in slight-of-hand, the state-licensed operators could give all our public areas a taste of casino action. A personable, yet aggressive operator would cajole people into wagering who otherwise would not even have been thinking about it. The take to the state easily would dwarf the massive percentage it skims off the Lottery.

Another opportunity for Illinois to enrich itself is through the classic “pigeon-drop” con. In this maneuver, a potential victim or “mark” finds a briefcase at the same time as do two state-employed con artists, who pretend not to know each other. They all open the briefcase and discover it is full of cash, along with some indication that the money is illicit. One of the con men runs off to “consult a trusted lawyer”; when he returns, he informs the other two that the money can be legally theirs if it is held for 30 days. The mark is elected to hold the money, in return for leaving a smaller amount of his own money with the con men as “good faith.” As soon as he gives his money to the con men, they depart, and when the mark opens the suitcase…he finds it has been switched to one containing shredded newspaper!

Sadly, a trip to the casinos is out of the question for most elderly invalids. The Land of Lincoln should service this neglected segment by sending out shady repairmen who would come right to the doors of the invalids, convince them that without expensive repairs their furnaces could blow at any moment and then cut out immediately after receiving several thousand dollars.

To get money from well-heeled visitors to our state, I would stock Chicago’s hotels and convention centers with alluring females whom I would dub “Daley Girls.” A Daley Girl would lure a prosperous-looking tourist or conventioneer into a deserted stairway, alley or parking garage, where another city employee would bash him over the head. Assume an average return of $200 on each visitor (not including his watch!) and it is easy to see how Chicago’s education coffers would soon overflow.

To those who question whether our government should be involved in these admittedly more aggressive revenue pursuits, I would remind them that people are going to play the shell game anyway. They are going to fall victim to con men anyway. They are going to follow beautiful women into deserted stairwells and get their skulls bashed in anyway. At least with my proposal, the state can control these activities and can skim money from them for our school system…money that would otherwise be going to unsavory characters.

Listen to this blog post as an audio file below.

Related Story in the News

WISN News Milwaukee reports on two Milwaukee City workers who stole city equipment in order to fuel their gambling addiction.