BELOIT

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs on Aug. 17 will review the Ho-Chunk Nation’s proposal to build a $405 million casino in Beloit, a move that comes after years of city and tribal planning.

Beloit officials say the meeting in Washington, D.C., could trigger the next steps for the large-scale development. If the bureau advances the project, it will be listed in the federal register, which city officials say will dramatically move the approval process forward.

Placing the proposal on the federal register would establish a timeline and formal process, officials say. Subsequent steps would involve several public hearings, one of which would be in Beloit.

Sarah Millard, Beloit’s director of strategic communications, said after public hearings, the proposal would be forwarded to the governor for approval. The governor has one year to make a decision, she said.

Millard said if all goes as planned, the Ho-Chunk Nation would start construction in 2020.

A representative of the Ho-Chunk Nation could not be reached for comment.

Aimee Thurner, executive director of the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce, said the Aug. 17 meeting “is the first big hurdle” for the casino, which is planned for the west side of Interstate 90/39 near Willowbrook and Colley roads.

At an event in Beloit last week, several city officials hand-delivered letters to visiting U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, asking him to write a letter to the bureau supporting the casino.

In a statement to The Gazette, Johnson’s communications director Ben Voelkel said, “This is a decision for the BIA and the governor, and the senator will respect the decision they make on this matter.”

The development is expected to include a hotel, convention center and indoor water park. Members of the tribe and city officials have said the project could employ nearly 1,500 people and generate about 1,000 jobs for neighboring businesses.

The city and Ho-Chunk Nation reached an intergovernmental agreement in 2012 to build a casino. In July 2014, the Beloit City Council approved a settlement with local tribes that prohibited interference with the Ho-Chunk’s development.

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