$80M Hotel Expansion at Milwaukee’s Potawatomi Hotel & Casino
The largest casino in Wisconsin just got larger with the topping off ceremony of its new hotel tower that is operated by the Forest County Potawatomi Community. While the addition of a second tower cost the Native American tribe approximately $80 million, it is expected to bring a return on investment that could be many times that amount.
The Potawatomi Tribe and the Casino
The Potawatomi who, along with the Ojibwe and Odawa, were once part of the “Council of Three Fires.” The tribe originally lived in the Great Lakes area but was forced to move further and further west because of European migration and encroachment. Several different bands of the tribe exist in the Great Lakes area, as well as Oklahoma, Kansas, Indiana, Michigan, and Ontario. The Forest County of Potawatomi Community, one of the largest bands of the tribe, has nearly 600 people. They live on a reservation in the Milwaukee area.
The casino opened in 1991 in Milwaukee, and now has a total of 60 table games and more than 3,000 slot machines, as well as a 500-seat theater and 45,000 square feet of gaming space. The first hotel tower, which was constructed in 2007, has 380 hotel rooms. The new addition is going to have 120 rooms and suites, as well as a spa and meeting spaces. It will have 180,000 square feet of additional space for the hotel. The casino hopes to open the new addition in the spring of 2019.
Gaming in Wisconsin
In Wisconsin, casino gaming is illegal, except for Native American casinos, which are legal under federal law. Horse track and dog track pari-mutuel betting is legal as well. The lottery run by the state is legal, as are bingo games. Wisconsin has also discussed making sports gaming legal since the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in May to end PASPA, which outlawed sports gaming in the country. However, it remains to be seen whether the state will allow sports gaming in either the Native American casinos or the race tracks.
The Future of the Casino
Both hotel towers have a total of 19 stories. The hotel and casino had a “’topping off” ceremony recently, which allowed the workers who built the tower to celebrate finishing the exterior construction, and will then focus on the interior of the hotel. The construction at the casino occurred surprisingly fast, with groundbreaking on the hotel project being done in December.
With the opening of the new tower, the casino expects to continue its rapid growth. In 1991, the casino opened with no hotel on the property and 45,000 square feet of gaming space. The casino became so popular and grew so rapidly that the tribe decided to build the first hotel tower in 2007. The casino already employs about 2,700 people and, with the addition, will add 50 to 100 more positions. The second tower is being built without government funding. In the future, the tribe hopes to expand its gaming tables and slot machines as the casino continues to move from those who visit for the day, which was the casino’s biggest draw in the 1990s, to tourists who want to stay for a few days and want additional entertainment features. The tribe has also discussed expanding its theater to bring in larger and/or more popular entertainment. It is hoped that as Wisconsin becomes more widely known for its beer, chocolate, and burgeoning farm-to-table scene, the casino will continue to grow and expand, and attract more visitors from other parts in the country.
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