‘It is a very good day in Beloit’: Proposed Ho-Chunk casino one step closer, Evers to consider deal

‘It is a very good day in Beloit’: Proposed Ho-Chunk casino one step closer, Evers to consider deal

The city of Beloit announced Friday that the proposed Ho-Chunk Nation casino and resort project is moving forward at the national level.

“It is a very good day in Beloit,” said City Manager Lori Curtis Luther. “We’ve been waiting on this piece for about six years, so it’s pretty monumental to get this far.”

“The City of Beloit is thrilled that the casino project is advancing forward at the federal level. We’re hopeful that it…

Posted by City of Beloit, Wisconsin – Government on Friday, November 9, 2018

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs published a notice of availability Friday about the project, a step that moves the casino forward in the final approval process.

This step is “the farthest this project has ever been,” said Ho-Chunk Nation President Wilfrid Cleveland. However, it is not a final approval.

Before this notice, Ho-Chunk Nation’s application had been under review with the federal department for six years.

“The public has been overwhelmingly supportive of this project. Even the concept has been in play for over 20 years,” Curtis Luther said.

The proposed casino, which would be the tribe’s seventh facility in Wisconsin, would be located along Interstate 39/90, across from the Wisconsin Welcome Center near the Wisconsin-Illinois border.

In Dec. 2017, the city and Ho-Chunk Nation announced they plan to build a 40,000-square-foot indoor water park, along with the casino, which would have 2,200 slot machines, 50 tables and 300 hotel rooms.

The Ho-Chunk Nation has estimated the casino would bring 1,500 direct jobs and another 1,200 jobs to the area. They are jobs that are desperately needed in Beloit, Luther said.

Collin Price, public information officer for Ho-Chunk nation, called the project a “homecoming” for the tribe.

“To us, it means a lot more than this casino. This community was once our home. We had a village right along the Rock River,” Price said.

The city would get $3.5 million annually from Ho-Chunk Nation, and another $1.5 million would go to Rock County.

Ho-Chunk Nation and the city will hold a public hearing over the next 60 days. After that, the Bureau of Indian Affairs would need to give final approval, and then the plan would head to the governor.

In February, Gov.-elect Tony Evers told the Beloit Daily News he would sign the deal.

Britt Cudaback, a spokesperson for Evers, sent the following statement to News 3 on Friday:

“Governor-Elect Evers has said in the past he is inclined to support the agreement. However, the Governor-Elect will be carefully reviewing the application and listening to all sides involved with the issue to ensure a fair consideration.”

Evers would have six months to review the deal and could extend that period by another six months.

Curtis Luther and Price are optimistic that all will go as planned.

“It is not outside the realm of possibility that this could be constructed or under construction by the end of 2019, certainly into 2020,” Curtis Luther said.

Exciting news! There are more steps to go but we’ve just cleared a major milestone.

Posted by Ho-Chunk Nation on Friday, November 9, 2018

Get your weather forecast from people who actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.