BELOIT—After two years of milestones for the Ho-Chunk Nation’s Beloit casino-resort project in 2018 and 2019, a tribe official says action is expected soon on the plan
In May of 2019, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) published a notice of availability of a final environmental impact statement for the project and responded to public comments about the proposal made last year.
That announcement followed a draft environmental impact statement from Nov. 9, 2018 that prompted a public hearing on the development on Dec. 11, 2018.
In February of 2019, the Beloit Daily News obtained a state report authored by the outgoing Scott Walker administration during the transition to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers acknowledging the Ho-Chunk Nation is entitled to one more casino property.
Since then, though, no further word has come down from BIA regarding the bureau’s final decision on the plan. Once a decision is rendered, if positive, the project would head to Evers for approval or denial.
“We are at the very last stages of concurrence and approval,” said Ho-Chunk Public Information Officer Ryan Greendeer. “We haven’t heard anything, but all signs point that it’s going to be something that’s good for the community.
Greendeer disputed calling 2019 a disappointment after action was seemingly imminent.
“Yes, we had some anticipations and we had good things coming back to us,” Greendeer said. “It’s right there. You can see the finish line.”
The EIS fleshes out a proposal to transfer 33-acres of land into trust status as part of a 73.5-acre plot owned by Ho-Chunk near Willowbrook and Colley roads in Beloit, near the Interstate 39/90 Beloit Travel Wisconsin Welcome Center. The document also expands on four options for the development including: the full project (casino/hotel/entertainment space/adjacent retail); a reduced casino and commercial development; only a retail development; and finally a no action/no development option. Ho-Chunk, Beloit and Rock County officials are all-in on the full project option.
Tribe officials and the city remain committed to the largest option to include a 139,700 square-foot casino, 175,000 square-foot retail outlet, 300-room hotel, 40,000 square-foot water park with supporting convention center and restaurants projected to create approximately 1,985 full-time jobs.
Greendeer said the tribe was at the point of selecting an architectural firm to “shore up what we have” in terms of design.
“We are working on reviewing the market analysis and we haven’t quite finalized all the plans quite yet,” Greendeer said. “We’re also looking at partnership opportunities. We know how difficult it is to continue to build up business, and we want to help build a community in every place that we are in.”