Evers endorses proposed Ho-Chunk Nation casino in Beloit

Project still needs final federal approval

Courtesy: Shutterstock
Courtesy: Shutterstock

Last updated on March 26th, 2021 at 12:48 pm

Gov. Tony Evers announced his concurrence with a U.S. Department of Interior decision that’s favorable to the proposed Ho-Chunk Nation casino project in Beloit.

It marks the latest hurdle the tribe has cleared to develop what would be one of the largest casinos in the state.

Last April, the department determined that 32 acres of land in Beloit should be taken into trust by the federal government for the purpose of developing a new casino.

In a news release today, Evers said he agrees with that decision.

“We are incredibly excited to have this great news of the governor’s concurrence today,” Karena Thundercloud, Ho-Chunk Nation vice president, said in a statement. “We also want to thank the City of Beloit, Rock County, and our respective communities for all the support over the past several years. We look forward to the day when we can celebrate everybody who is helping this project along.”

If approved, the Beloit casino complex would include a 300-room hotel, 45,000 square feet of meeting and convention space and a 40,000-square-foot indoor waterpark. It would be built just north of the Wisconsin-Illinois border, west of Interstate 39/90.

The Ho-Chunk Nation also plans to develop more entertainment and retail uses on a neighboring property.

But more approvals are needed before construction of the casino can move forward. The Department of the Interior must issue its final determination on whether to take the land into trust, and the governor and Ho-Chunk Nation must complete an amendment to the Nation’s gaming compact to address the new Beloit casino and related issues.

“As our community strives to recover from the impact of COVID-19, we are thankful that carefully planned projects like this can continue to move forward,” Beloit City Council President Regina Dunkin said in a statement. “An entertainment destination of this magnitude is a win for the entire Greater Beloit region and will provide job opportunities for our residents.”

The Ho-Chunk Nation’s is one of several proposed casinos along the Wisconsin-Illinois border in recent years.

Another new casino could be built in Rockford, Illinois, just across the border from Beloit.

Waukegan, Illinois, which is just south of the border near southeastern Wisconsin, is looking to add a casino as well. Officials there are still in the process of selecting a casino operator and finding an investment banker. Potawatomi Hotel & Casino applied to be the operator but was rejected by the city.

Evers’ support for the Beloit casino is in contrast to Gov. Scott Walker’s 2015 decision against a proposed casino in Kenosha. It would have been developed at the former Dairyland Greyhound Park dog racing track.

Rendering: Cuningham Group
Beloit casino project rendering: Cuningham Group

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Alex Zank, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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