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MILWAUKEE - Gov. Scott Walker has rejected plans for a planned casino in Kenosha.

In a statement released Friday, Walker said "the risk to taxpayers is too great."

"Due to the compacts negotiated by Gov. Doyle, the current cost to taxpayers of approving the proposed casino project is up to $100 million, and the long-term economic hit to the state budget would be a potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.," the statement read.

The Menominee Nation had planned a more than $800 million off-reservation casino on the former Dairyland Greyhound Park property just west of the city of Kenosha. The tribe was partnering with Hard Rock International on the project, which they said could bring 3,000 jobs to the area, and more than 10,000 jobs to the state over 10 years.

The Forest County Potawatomi Community has been fiercely opposed to the project, with concerns that it would siphon profits from the Potawatomi's Milwaukee Casino.

Speaking to reporters after an appearance at the Wisconsin Education Convention, Walker said his administration "tried to run the clock down" on the decision and get some type of agreement between the tribes that would have mitigated payments for which he says the state would be responsible.

"There's still in our review no way to legally guarantee that the state wouldn't be on the hook for about $100 million or more in the short term and potentially hundreds of millions more in the future," Walker said.

The Menominee tribe expressed disappointment in the decision.

"We believe this is the option, this is the ideal option," said Gary Besaw, Chair of the Menominee-Kenosha Gaming Authority. "We believe we have been wronged and we will look into all the options we have available to us. We believe we can correct this."

Tribal Chairwoman Laurie Boivin said in a statement Friday that the project "would have improved the lives" of nearly 9,000 tribal members. The chairwoman said that instead, one tribe -- the Forest County Potawatomi -- and Walker's presumed presidential aspirations derailed the project.

Assembly Minority Leader Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, called it an "enormous disappointment."

"I feel like this is a mistake of colossal proportions," Barca said Friday. "Thousands of our citizens, many of whom have applied for jobs they were counting on, will now be denied this opportunity due to the Governor's ill-advised decision."

Barca also said that he thought that political issues were at play, with recent reports that conservatives in Iowa had sent a letter to the governor asking him not to support an expansion of gaming.

"To me, it's strictly political," Barca said. "I can't imagine virtually any governor in any state turning down an opportunity such as this."

Republican representatives from the Kenosha and Racine area held a news conference Friday to express their disappointment.

"I don't know how many opportunities we have to bring thousands of jobs, guaranteed payments, millions of dollars of economic impact," Assembly Speaker Rep. Robin Vos, R-Burlington, said Friday. "I don't see those coming to Wisconsin enough, so it's hard for us to turn down one even though it might have been somewhat risky."

Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Salem, said she thought the Menominee and leaders in the area had answered all of the Walker administration's questions, and lamented the loss of job opportunities in the area.

The lawmakers said they hoped that politics had nothing to do with Walker's decision.

"I can't read Gov. Walker's mind," Vos said. "As you know, I'm a pretty close ally, and I think that every once in a while even someone you're really good friends with gets it wrong, and this is a prime example.

Walker is headed to Iowa Saturday to speak at the Iowa Freedom Summit, and has said he is considering a run for president in 2016. He told reporters Friday that politics were not part of his decision.

"If that's the case, I would have shut it down right off the bat," Walker said. "If it had been done for political reasons I would have done it a long time ago."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 
Walker rejects plans for Kenosha casino

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