If anyone wants a primer on how certain elements of the US casino industry operate today, all they have to do is follow award winning journalist, Cary Spivak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He paints a seemingly complete picture of the high stakes battle for casino dollars going on in his neck of the woods. A battle that has the potential to shape the running field for the next US Presidency.
He exposes dirt on many sides of the issue and highlights a variety of facts – sometimes to the chagrin of the major players. Names mentioned go beyond Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, we hear about Jack Abramhoff, and other bell-ringers as well. On the surface, the battle royale would seem to be between two tribes competing for gambling money from a certain market area. Fair enough. But this issue may go much deeper – into the very heart of what it means to host a casino in your community, and what the true costs and benefits may be.
At loggerheads are two Native American Tribes; the Menominee and the Potawatomi. The latter is a tribe of some 1,400 who each recieve about $70,000 a year in casino dividends every year – the former, an impoverished tribe of nearly 9,000 who have no intention of disbursing casino profits directly to their members.
The fight has been brewing for more than a decade.
The well informed know better than to take sides in issues like this unless they have some sort of ideological or financial stake in the outcome – others will swing with whichever way the wind is blowing them. Such are politics.
Those who may wish to divine the best course of action may wish to consult a recent study in the AMERICAN INDIAN LAW JOURNAL Volume III, Issue I – Fall 2014 entitled Sovereignty, Economic Development And Human Security In Native American Nations (.pdf); a study originating thousands of miles away in Seattle, Washington, and seemingly unrelated to the Kenosha issue.
According to the report, Indian Nations (those studied in the NorthWest) that disburse casino income directly to tribal members have abysmally low quality of life indicators as compared to those that invest primarily or completely in infrastructure, health care, tribal government, and economic development.
This writer is not easily swayed by politics, nor statistics – but there are more than two sides to every coin, the edge come to mind. Perhaps the best solution to the Kenosha casino conundrum is a coming together of the parties, with fair and equitable distributions, and let history judge the better manner of governance. In ten years who will be the happier people?