A Ho-Chunk Nation representative said last week the tribe is hopeful its proposed $405 million casino and resort in the city of Beloit will be approved by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Collin Price, a public relations officer for the Ho-Chunk Nation, said the tribe continues planning for a massive development at Interstate 90/39 near Willowbrook and Colley roads even as the federal government considers whether or not to authorize the project.
“We’re going to continue to finalize the plan, the layout and all the design aspects of it,” Price said Friday. “We’re confident that all the information, when looked at collectively, is a good thing for the nation and the community. We haven’t even considered a denial or some circumstances that would stop the project.”
Price’s comments come in advance of the bureau’s public hearing in the city of Beloit on Dec. 11. Price said that hearing is part of the bureau’s economic impact study, which was first published as a draft Nov. 9. Price said the study is the bureau’s final piece of the approval process.
“That will be all the information the bureau needs to make a final decision,” he said.
The bureau’s draft statement surveys the environmental impacts of transferring about 33 acres of the tribe’s land to the federal trust. Overall, the Ho-Chunk Nation is planning the development on 73.5 acres, but only the portion of land used for gaming is being considered for the federal trust.
It is unclear when the bureau could hand down its ruling, Price said. But final approval ultimately will have to come from Gov.-elect Tony Evers, who told the Beloit Daily News in February he would support the project if it is granted federal authorization.
An Evers spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the matter last week.
Officials from the city of Beloit and Rock County have touted the proposal’s likely economic impact. The plan includes a casino with 2,200 slot machines and 50 tables, a 300-room hotel and a 40,000-square-foot indoor waterpark.
An economic impact study by The Innovation Group last November estimated the development could create about 1,500 jobs and generate a labor income of $83.7 million. The impact on the Rock County economy is assessed at $225 million, according to the study, and the county’s sales tax share could be $3 million.
Sales from retail development, which would make up about 175,000 square feet of the project, could generate about $16.4 million for the county.
The city of Beloit and Rock County entered an intergovernmental agreement with the tribe in March 2012 which exempts the Ho-Chunk Nation from property taxes. Instead, the tribe would make yearly payments for services provided, and the city and county would each receive a portion.
In a statement Nov. 9, Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther lauded the nation’s bid and said the city is “thrilled” the bureau is making strides with the casino’s proposal.
“This casino, hotel, convention center and waterpark will surely be an asset to our great community,” Luther said. “The Ho-Chunk Nation has an excellent reputation for running high-quality properties, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with the tribe throughout the duration of this project.”