These past few weeks have barely brought positive news related to casinos in the US as all land-based gaming properties, commercial and tribal, have been closed as part of a coordinated effort to contain the spreading menace of the coronavirus. And while casino operators are busy furloughing workers to cut costs, some new casino projects such as the Ho-Chunk Nation’s $400 million hotel and casino resort in Beloit, Wisconsin, have gained traction.
Federal Approval Granted
On Thursday, after almost a year of delay, the tribal integrated resort scheme to be located along Interstate 39/90 in Beloit got the necessary federal approval by the Bureau of Indian Affairs /BIA/. This happened after in 2018 the federal agency announced it would review the project that had been previously stuck in bureaucracy for years, and then followed through in 2019 by publishing a Notice of Availability of a Final Environmental Impact Statement /EIS/.
“Casinos have been the bedrock of tribal economies across the nation. The economy of the Ho-Chunk Nation is no different,”Karena Thundercloud, Vice President, Ho-Chunk Nation
The Ho-Chunk Nation’s desired casino resort is spread on a 73.5-acre parcel along Interstate 39/90 near Beloit and will host a hotel with 300 rooms, 175,000 square feet of retail space, a 40,000-square-foot water park, a convention center, and multiple dining outlets. The casino itself will be on 139,700 square feet and will encompass 2,200 slot machines and 50 table games.
Step One Completed, Step Two Remains
The Ho-Chunk Nation is pursuing its Beloit casino resort project under the two-part determination provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act that requires approval from the state governor in addition to the one from the BIA.
The only casino in Wisconsin that got successfully through the two-step approval process is the Forest County Potawatomi Community casino resort that completed both steps back in 2000. Another tribal casino scheme, of the Menominee Nation, was approved by the BIA, but was then rejected by the governor, after both Ho-Chunk Nation and Forest County Potawatomi Community had opposed it.
The project that is expected to provide 1,500 new jobs for the tribal community and pay $3 million annually to each of The City of Beloit and Rock County, as per their revenue sharing agreements with the Ho-Chunk Nation, is now on the governor’s desk waiting for the final approval.
By the time St. Gov. Tony Evers was running for governor in 2018, he declared he would approve the project, but after he was elected, his position changed, stating he would carefully review the proposal.
It took a lot of effort by the Ho-Chunk Nation to move its desired casino resort to the stage of the final approval and tribal officials remain optimistic they would get the final go-ahead.