BELOIT—The Bureau of Indian Affairs has approved placing 33 acres of land in Beloit into trust for the Ho-Chunk Nation, which is the final step in the process to start construction of a tribal casino and resort in Beloit.
No timetable has been announced yet when the casino project will begin construction or when it will be complete at its site near the intersection of Willowbrook and Colley roads and adjacent to Interstate 39/90.
Ryan J. Greendeer, Ho-Chunk Public Relations Officer, said the Ho-Chunk Nation will work with the City of Beloit regarding the development of the site now that federal approval of the project is complete. He said some planning already has been completed and the first phase will involve infrastructure work. However, future stages of the project will involve seeking bids for construction.
“We don’t have a construction schedule readily available yet, but we are hoping to get it underway as soon as possible,” Greendeer said. “Of course, we have a government procurement process that requires RFPs (requests for proposals) and bids, so it isn’t exactly like corporate construction timelines.”
“The Nation, our partners and this community have been anticipating this moment for years,” said Ho-Chunk Vice President Karena Thundercloud. “There’s been some skepticism about the timeline because of the Nation’s reliance on the federal processes, but we’ve been confident in the project’s viability and look forward to a bright future for Beloit, the State of Wisconsin and the Ho-Chunk Nation.”
Beloit city officials welcomed the news and welcomed the tribe back to Kecak, the historic Ho-Chunk village where Beloit now stands.
“Our community has eagerly awaited the ground-breaking for this high-quality complex that will provide an additional boost to our economy,” said Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther. “We appreciate the thorough review and approval of the project so that our city can welcome the Ho-Chunk Nation home to Kecak. The City of Beloit remains committed to being a good partner with the tribe as they begin the development for this entertainment destination.”
The project has been in the approval stage for years, as the Ho-Chunk nation first submitted its application for the project to the U.S. Department of Interior in 2012. The Department of Interior approved placing the land in trust in April of 2020 and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers concurred with the decision in March of 2021. U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who has supported and lobbied for the project for the last 10 years, was happy to hear the news the project has received final approval.
“The Ho-Chunk casino in Beloit will be an economic boon to the Rock County area, creating thousands of good paying jobs, supporting additional business development, and enabling long needed infrastructure improvements for the area” Baldwin said. “After a decade of working alongside state, local, and Ho-Chunk tribal leaders, I am proud to see this project move forward to create family supporting jobs in the community and support the Ho-Chunk Nation with a long-term source of revenue to provide essential housing, educational, and health programs for their members.”
The plans for the development call for a casino, hotel and convention space, along with other entertainment options, such as a water park and restaurants. The project is expected to bring 3,000 construction jobs to Beloit. The casino and resort itself is expected to create about 1,300 jobs.
Initial plans included a 300-room hotel, five restaurants, 2,000 slot games and 50 gaming tables.
The construction schedule will be completed in several stages including road improvements, utility work and more.
The idea for a tribal casino in Beloit dates back to the 1990s. A referendum on a tribal casino in Beloit was approved by a majority of Beloit voters in 1999.
The Bad River Lake Superior Chippewa and the St. Croix Chippewa made a proposal to establish a casino in Beloit, but in 2001, the application to place the land for the casino in trust was rejected by the U.S. Department of Interior. Then, the casino proposal was rejected by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2009.
In 2009, the Ho-Chunk Nation purchased 30 acres of land where the Chippewa bands had planned to build a casino. The Ho-Chunk purchased 41 acres of land in the area from the City of Beloit in 2013 and moved forward with its own casino project application starting in 2012.