The results of an economic impact study conducted in November were reportedly shared by officials from Beloit, which is located adjacent to the Illinois municipality of South Beloit, and the federally recognized Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin at a recent news conference. According to a report from the Rockford Register Star, the study conducted by the tribe shows that 1,500 people would be employed by the casino, which has reportedly been in the works since 2012.
However, the $405.5 million casino project planned on 60 acres near Colley and Willowbrook roads adjacent to Interstate 39/90, “would devastate Rockford” said Republican Sen. Dave Syverson of Rockford. The senator reportedly said that revenue lost by Rockford’s convention center and other businesses due to the new casino would be substantial.
The project still faces some challenges on the way to garnering federal and state approvals said Syverson.
In 2016, the tribe’s application was submitted to the Department of the Interior for review by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in 2018, and according to the Beloit Daily News, if approved, will make its way to the state’s capital for final review.
However, reports indicate that the tribe will likely have to wait until 2019 for a final decision to be reached, with construction expected to start as soon as 2020. The news agency reports that Wilfrid Cleveland, the president of Ho-Chunk, said officials in President Trump’s administration have been “more aggressive” than administrations in the past in seeing the plan towards its final review.
“It looks very promising that progress is going to be made in moving forward,” said Cleveland, who added, “The Trump administration seems a lot more aggressive in wanting to get things done.”
If the project receives the green light, tribal officials reportedly say the city of Beloit could see an additional 1,500 jobs, a 600-room hotel, and a casino with 2,200 gaming machines and 50 table games. Also included in the massive project, a 40,000-square-foot water park, and 30,000-square-foot conference center/entertainment space.
Officials noted that an intergovernmental agreement that is reportedly in place would see 2 percent of all net win proceeds to go to both Beloit and Rock County. That sum could translate into $5 million in revenue, which would reportedly be divided with the former receiving $3.5 million and the latter receiving $1.5 million in annual revenue, according to the Beloit Daily News.
The Ho-Chunk Nation owns and operates several casinos, Ho-Chunk Gaming, in Black River Falls, Baraboo, Madison, Nekoosa, Tomah, and Wittenberg, Wisconsin.
After a ruling in October by U.S. District Judge James Peterson, who dismissed the Ho-Chunk Nation from a federal lawsuit brought by the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans against the state of Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker and the Ho-Chunk Nation, in September 2016, the tribe broke ground on a $33 million expansion of its Wittenberg facility.
According to the Rockford Register Star, Ho-Chunk Nation’s executive director of the business department, Robert Mudd, said that the minimum wage for water park and casino jobs would be $10 and that a “Cadillac” package of health care benefits would also be offered.
If all goes according to plan, the Beloit casino would be the Nation’s largest gaming operation. The majority of the employees at the tribe’s other casinos, approximately 80 percent, are reportedly not tribal members.