Ho-Chunk exploring Illinois casino project

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BELOIT - The Ho-Chunk Nation says it is committed to continue work on its Beloit casino-resort plan as it remains pending at the federal level, while looking to explore possible involvement in an additional casino across the border in Illinois.

According to tribe representatives, Ho-Chunk is exploring an opportunity to operate a casino in the south Chicago suburb of Lynwood, Illinois.

Ryan P. McLaughlin, a representative for the tribe's Illinois interests, told the Beloit Daily News Ho-Chunk plans to make a decision on submitting an application to operate the Illinois casino "very soon."

"The Ho-Chunk Nation is proud to consider the Village of Lynwood home and has spent the last 15 years investing in the future of the community, as demonstrated by the development of the Southland Center, a regional state-of-the-art sports and entertainment complex," McLaughlin said. "We're also proud of our proven record of success operating six entertainment and gaming facilities. Therefore, when legislation authorizing a casino or riverboat in the south suburbs was approved, we began exploring the possibility of opening a new facility in Lynwood."

The Lynwood plan would differ from the Beloit proposal, with Ho-Chunk looking to possibly serve as operator of an Illinois casino as opposed to going through the fee-to-trust process at the federal level that's currently slowed down the Beloit plan.

McLaughlin added the Illinois potential proposal came about after the state passed an expanded gaming bill, allowing for additional casinos across Illinois, including a proposal in Rockford by Hard Rock International that's moving quickly. The Rockford City Council approved the Hard Rock plan to be sent to the Illinois Gaming Board for final review.

The Hard Rock proposal is set for the former Clock Tower Resort site along Interstate 39/90.

The Hard Rock plan beat out two other proposals for different areas of Rockford following a public hearing last month.

Meanwhile, Ho-Chunk Legislature Public Relations Officer Ryan Greendeer said the tribe will continue to monitor any updates at the federal level to its $405 million Beloit proposal. In May the tribe saw movement on the plan, and at the time, expected a federal ruling on the proposal over the summer, but that time span came and went.

According to City of Beloit staff, stakeholders of the Beloit plan hope to see action on the proposal by December. Once a federal ruling is received, if a favorable recommendation is made by BIA, the plan would head to Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers for final approval or denial.

City and tribe officials said there's been no indication from federal officials on the Beloit plan as of Monday.

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