The St. Croix and Bad River bands of Chippewa and the Ho-Chunk Nation are no longer in cooperative talks regarding a possible Beloit-based casino, and it appears city officials will, in time, need to decide which proposal to support.
“There has not been any recent communication between Ho-Chunk and Chippewa tribes,” said Joe Hunt, the spokesman for the St. Croix and Bad River casino project.
As recently as June, Hunt had described the two tribes as having an “ongoing” dialogue. But now, negotiations seem permanently stalled and unlikely to resume.
Anne Thundercloud, spokeswoman for the Ho-Chunk, said the nation is keeping all its options open at this point but remains very committed to development in Beloit. Discussions are continuing on how to best make that happen, but we are optimistic and excited about moving forward, she said in an e-mail.
Beloit’s City Council held a special, closed-session meeting Monday night to “discuss contract negotiation regarding a possible casino in the City of Beloit,” according to the agenda. City Manager Larry Arft said he and members of the Council received updated information on how both tribes’ plans are developing.
He would not say whether the city considers the Chippewa and Ho-Chunk as competing bidders, but rather said, “We’re going to continue to have relations with both tribes. We have some discussions underway with both tribes.”
However, Arft did indicate Beloit’s government will eventually throw its backing behind one of the tribes.
“In the fairly near future, we’re going to have to make a decision over which tribe is most likely to be successful in getting the necessary licenses for a Class III gaming facility.”
Land ownership is one of the foremost issues. The St. Croix and Bad River bands of Chippewa have been trying to build a gaming facility in Beloit for more than 10 years. But in October, 2008 the Ho-Chunk spent $4 million on 26 acres of land that the Chippewa had intended to use for its own project.
However, the Chippewa do still have an option on about 40 acres — about half the original plot, said Hunt. And though they now have “very close neighbors,” the Chippewa will continue its pursuit of a casino.
Tribal council elections for the St. Croix will take place next week, and Hunt believes new leadership could help invigorate the group’s effort.
“Once the new tribal council is in place, there should be a sit down meeting for frank discussions on the casino,” he said.