SHULLSBURG—The Lac du Flambeau tribe visited Shullsburg on March 21 to meet with the Shullsburg City Council and the city’s gaming/casino citizen advisory committee.
Tom Maulson, the tribal chairman, assured the crowd of 30 that the Lac du Flambeau tribe wants to see the casino project become a reality in Shullsburg.
“We are real,” Maulson said. “We want to come to Shullsburg. We will make an impact on Shullsburg and Lafayette County.”
The tribe is working on a project to build a casino and hotel on tribe-owned property west of Shullsburg. The project could bring approximately 400-600 jobs to Lafayette County.
The tribe started plans for a casino in the same location in 2003. A referendum that year showed 87 percent local approval for the project, but state and federal governments did not give final approval.
“We won’t leave a stone unturned this time around,” Maulson said. “We’re meeting once a week on this project. It’s not new to us. We know what we need to do, but we rely on local expertise, too.”
The project would require a portion of the land be put into a trust and that the land be annexed to the city of Shullsburg.
Maulson said even though a portion, or possibly even all, of the tribal land could be put into a trust, the tribe will still be paying taxes on the land. He said it’s a federal law requirement to have the property the casino is on in a trust.
Maulson said once the land is put in the trust a temporary structure will be established with some slot machines.
“If there’s an opportunity there, we need to take it,” Maulson said. “[President] Obama and [Governor] Walker want to put people to work. It’s a win-win situation.”
Maulson said even though there are several other casinos in the tri-state area, that is a draw for some people who like to visit many casinos at the same time.
Shullsburg Mayor Tom Lethlean said there is a considerable financial risk for the city of Shullsburg. Maulson said he would work with the city to make sure the casino has proper water, sewer and electricity.
“We want to do our due diligence to make this work,” Maulson said. “That’s what partner means. We’re not just doing this for ourselves but for all of Lafayette County and the area.”
Maulson said it’s premature to make major commitments.
“The economy is different than it was 10 years ago,” Mary Peterson, treasurer of the tribe, said. “We’ll build what we think the market can bear.”
Although a destination location was the previous plan, Maulson said a feasibility study will determine how many rooms will be needed at the hotel and how large the casino should be.
Members of the tribe explained that they have a lot of work to do yet and they are still waiting on approval from the state and federal governments.
Peterson said they will work on the details of the project while waiting for approval.
“We will be ready to roll when we get the approval,” Peterson said.
Maulson said the tribe wants to build to expand.
“We want to make sure we can expand without piecemealing together,” Maulson said.
Brooks Big John said the casino will have most of the types of games that Las Vegas, Nev., has.
Maulson said because this is the second attempt at this project, some of the legwork is already completed and the process may be expediated.
“This time there’s a different train on the tracks,” Maulson said. “I think we can really do this. The council back home wants to make it happen. It can happen.”