BELOIT, Wis. - Beloit residents on Tuesday night got their first look at Ho-Chunk's proposal to being a casino to their community.
Negotiations between the city and the Ho-Chunk Nation had stalled in the past but appear to be gaining traction after both sides signed a preliminary agreement this week.
The city and tribe representatives presented and discussed the tentative deal at a town hall meeting Tuesday.
There were a few questions but no public comment at Tuesday's meeting. Rather, it was a chance for both sides to lay out the proposal and give residents their first glimpse of the proposed project.
Leaders of the Ho-Chunk Nation outlined the proposal to nearly 200 Beloit-area residents, and did their best to sell the idea of bringing a casino to their community.
"Today we have something very good. We have every intention of building a magnificent facility. We intend to make it first class. We want to make it state of the art," said Daniel Brown, of the Ho-Chunk Nation.
The plan includes a 700,000-square-foot facility with a theater, a 300-room hotel and a class three casino with upwards of 2,200 slot machines and 50 table games.
"This is the beginning. There's still a two-year application process that lies ahead of the nation. So there's no guarantee that this will get approved," said Beloit City Manager Larry Arft.
Both sides, the Ho-Chunk Nation and the city, presented their case to area residents. Arft said the plan could put Beloit on the map, a city with an unemployment rate that's second-highest in the state.
"Clearly a project like this that would create many hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs and would be an economic game changer for any community -- but certainly a community like Beloit that needs those jobs desperately," Arft said.
Tribal leaders said the $150 million to $200 million project could create as many as 2,000 jobs and provide a huge boost to the area's economy.
"We also see this as an opportunity, as a tourism magnet, which will in turn create opportunities for other businesses in the city of Beloit, other amenities, other attractions that you have," Brown said.
The Ho-Chunk Nation told the crowd this is not the case of a rich tribe trying to get more money. In fact, leaders said this was an idea to bring in more money, to help fund programs for tribal members that they'd otherwise have to cut because of budget concerns.
The public will have a chance to weigh in on the idea at next week's Beloit City Council meeting.
The casino idea has been floated for more than a decade. In a 1999 referendum, 61 percent of Beloit voters approved implementation of a casino project. But the project ran into roadblocks in Washington, D.C.