SHULLSBURG—A conference call with a representative of the Lac du Flambeau band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians was just one more step toward establishing a casino and hotel in Shullsburg.
During the Nov. 16 city council meeting, Shullsburg Mayor Tom Lethlean said he and alderman Dan Spillane met with Wayne Wilson of the Lafayette County Board and Albert Gensler and Larry Johnson of the town of Shullsburg board for a conference call with Tom Maulson of the Lac du Flambeau tribe on Wednesday, Nov. 16.
“In summary, they are very strongly interested in pursuing the casino in Shullsburg,” Lethlean said.
The tribe owns land west of Shullsburg and started preparations for a casino at that location in 2003. A referendum that year showed 87 percent local approval for the project, but state and national governments did not agree at that time.
Lethlean said the committee has contacted several officials and there is support for the project at the local, county, state and federal levels at this time.
Maulson is traveling to Washington D.C. this week to work with internal affairs of the Indians on this project.
“There are a lot of variables, but the No. 1 obstacle is making sure Gov. Walker supports this,” Lethlean said.
He said Maulson is requesting to meet with Gov. Walker the week of Dec. 12. Lethlean asked Sen. Dale Schultz and Rep. Howard Marklein to assist in setting up this meeting.
“If we have the thumbs-up from the governor, and at this point in time we believe we will have, it will continue on,” Lethlean said. “They are considering putting the land into a trust in the very near future. That land that would go into the trust would be that which would be occupied by the casino, not that which is occupied by the hotel. The casino would not be a tax revenue structure. Any supporting buildings around that, including the hotel, … would be on the tax roll.”
Lethlean said this business venture presents enormous opportunity for the Shullsburg area in several facets: job opportunities, increased revenues to local merchants, tourist attraction and adding to the local tax base.
At the Sept. 8 meeting Lethlean said the casino would create 400-600 jobs when it opens, based on experiences with other facilities the tribe operates.
“It’s very positive,” Lethlean said.
He said the tribe is also pursuing plans for a casino in Elgin, Ill., at this time. If plans don’t work in Shullsburg, the tribe may choose to build in Illinois instead.
“I’m hoping it does materialize,” Lethlean said. “The first step is up to Madison at the capitol.”
Lethlean said the town of Shullsburg expressed some issues with the casino. He said he wouldn’t discuss those issues until approval from the governor was established.
While in Washington D.C. Maulson will find out if the environmental study done in the past will be sufficient at this time. The study costs $500,000 and takes nine months to conduct. Part of that study included the results of the referendum in 2003 that revealed the local support for the project.
Alderman Jim Paquette asked if another referendum is needed.
“I’m not saying it won’t have to be addressed, but until he [Maulson] makes his trip to Washington, I don’t think there’s any need to consider it,” Lethlean said. “If he says Washington wants to know public sentiment, then we would look to incorporate it into spring elections.”
Lethlean said previous discussions between Gov. Walker and Marklein revealed there were three factors needed for the project to move forward: must be more than a casino, needs public support and consensus with other tribal leaders within the state.
“What Mr. Maulson stated today and the other day on the phone, he said all of the tribes are willing to go forward with the casino,” Lethlean said.