The Ho-Chunk Nation has received another checkmark on the list of approvals it needs to construct a new casino in Beloit, Wisconsin. The latest came from the state’s governor, Tony Evers, who signed off on the new gaming property late last month, but there is still one more checkmark needed. The Department of Interior (DOI) has to sign off on the casino as the last step before Wisconsin can start to enjoy the additional economic benefits of the new venue.
More Jobs, More Revenue for Wisconsin
The Ho-Chunk Nation believes the new Beloit casino will provide 1,500 permanent jobs and 2,000 during the construction of the property. The city and the county it sits in, Rock County, will be able to add 2% to their annual budgets annually once the casino is operational, with Beloit receiving 70% and the county 30%. Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther told local media outlet WISN-TV, “We need additional revenue streams and we need jobs and the prospect of another 1,500 permanent jobs, that is something this community desperately needs.”
Getting this far with the proposed casino hasn’t been an easy task and it has required a great deal of patience and diligence. The $400-million property has been in the works for several years, but was mired in bureaucratic red tape for much of that time. The Bureau of Indian Affairs finally approved the project almost a year ago, and it took another year for Governor Evers to give his approval. With the possibility of adding thousands of new jobs and a new revenue stream to the state, Wisconsin and the Ho-Chunk Nation are hopeful the DOI won’t take as long to deliver its approval.
Opponents Claim Wisconsin Is Already Saturated
It’s unlikely that the DOI will be influenced by local opposition to the casino, but opponents are trying to prevent the project from moving forward anyway. Citizens Against Expanded Gambling and Wisconsin Family Action had tried to convince Evers not to approve the casino, arguing that the state’s 25 casinos make Wisconsin “more than saturated.” By way of comparison, Nevada has 466 casinos, as of January 1 of this year, and a population of around 3.2 million – Wisconsin’s population is around 6 million.
Beloit’s population is around 37,000 and introducing a casino is expected to give it a lot more economic autonomy. The Ho-Chunk Nation will not only give a portion of its net revenue to the city, but will also likely have to amend its existing tribal compact with the state in order to include the new venue. If the DOI gives its approval, which the Ho-Chunk Nation hopes will occur within the next couple of months, breaking ground on the new casino could begin earlier next year.