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Ho-Chunk Casino Plan Clears First Federal Hurdle
A proposed hotel and casino complex in the City of Beloit, Wisconsin hit an important milestone toward its realization, developers said in a press release on Friday
The Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin is planning to build a $400-million hotel and casino resort along Interstate 90/39 in Beloit. Tribal officials said on Friday that the Bureau of Indian Affairs has published a Notice of Availability of a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the property. The statement is an important step toward the eventual materialization of the multi-million project.
The plan has been stuck in bureaucracy for years until last summer the Bureau of Indian Affairs said that it would review it. Friday’s publication of the Notice of Availability does not mean that the federal agency will approve the project, but certainly is an important step forward.
Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther told local media that “it is feasible although uncertain that we could receive final approval this summer.” She went on to say that it was “impossible to hide the enthusiasm in getting to this step.”
The FEIS publication has opened a 30-day public comment period that will be followed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ recording of its decision on whether the Ho-Chunk Nation should proceed with the project. The plan also needs Gov. Tony Evers’ concurrence. Wisconsin’s top official has previously spoken in favor of the proposed casino.
If it passes all pending hurdles, the Ho-Chunk plan will involve the development of a hotel and gaming complex that will feature a casino with 2,200 slot machines and 50 gaming tables, a 300-room hotel, food and beverage outlets, a 40,000-square-foot water park, and a convention center.
According to early projections, the property would generate 1,500 new jobs and labor income of more than $80 million. The people at the forefront of the project have also said that the new resort would contribute more than $225 million in an economic impact to Rock County. In addition, both the host county and city would each annually receive $3 million from the Ho-Chunk Nation for being allowed to provide its services in the region.
Commenting on the latest developments related to the project, Ho-Chunk Nation President Wilfrid Cleveland said that they would be “pleased to see the impact that the Ho-Chunk Nation can have on the unemployment in the Beloit area and beyond.”
Ryan Greendeer, a Public Relations Officer for the tribe, added that “we know the area of Beloit needs to have a job infusion.”
During a hearing held late last year by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Beloit, city officials and residents showed overwhelming support for the multi-million hotel and casino complex, stating that it would bring much-needed new jobs and revenue to the region and the state.
In January, a group of community members calling itself the 11th Hour Beloit Casino Group held a meeting to voice its opposition to the proposed development of the casino property. Group members said that residents of Beloit should be allowed to state their opinion on the project at a local referendum. Ms. Curtis Luther responded to the concerns raised by saying that at the current stage of the game, talks “of an advisory referendum are not necessarily appropriate.”
If the plan gets the necessary federal and state approval, the Ho-Chunk Nation hopes to break ground on the property late in 2019 or in early 2020 and to open it in 2021.
June 1, 2019