BELOIT, Wis. - The battle over a proposed Beloit casino is heating up.
The side in favor of building the casino hit the airwaves recently with TV ads trying to build support for the project.
Ho-Chunk Nation President Jon Greendeer said economic development and job creation are the message behind a new website and TV commercials airing in Rock County. They are trying to gather support for a 145,000-square-foot casino in Beloit.
Longtime resident Rick Brunton has a message of his own: This project isn't the way to grow Beloit's economy.
"When you move casinos into developed economies, especially in the Beloit case where we are surrounded by successful casino competition, now 85 to 90 percent of the money comes from your local community. And where does it go? Profits are siphoned out to nonresident Indian tribes outside the community," Brunton said.
Brunton worked with a group that opposed the original casino project more than 10 years ago. He said a study conducted back in 2000 said a casino would strip the local economy of about $60 million.
"There are a lot of businesses that depend on that money fluctuating in their business. That's not going to be there anymore," Brunton said. "So, after a three-to four-year period of time, you start to see a loss of business and the taxes those businesses pay. Who has to make up the difference in those taxes? The property taxpaying citizen makes up the difference."
Greendeer said the facility would bring about 2,000 jobs to the area.
"This isn't our effort to save Wisconsin," Greendeer said. "This is our effort to create jobs. And to prove it, we have nearly 34,000 employees working for the Nation. So, we are a big job creator in the state. We also take pride in the fact we've done a great job for tourism."
Greendeer said putting a casino in Beloit was a good fit for the community. Ho-Chunk Nation will continue to run ads to keep area citzens informed on the progress of the project.
"We have an area looking for an opportunity and a Nation that has the potential to create opportunity," Greendeer said.
Beloit City Manager Larry Arft said that Ho-Chunk Nation has done its own studies that show a casino would have a positive economic impact on the Beloit area.
The city council and county board are scheduled to meet Thursday, Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. to finish drafting the intergovernmental agreement between them and the Ho-Chunk Nation. Arft said they are hoping to vote on the project next month.
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