Both casino plans in the Stateline Area are still waiting on a final ruling as the Ho-Chunk Nation’s Beloit casino plan remains with Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ office and the City of Rockford’s Hard Rock casino project is still under review by the Illinois Gaming Board.
In Beloit, the Ho-Chunk plan remains on Evers’ desk, who is required to make a two-part ruling within one year of the plan receiving a favorable determination from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The bureau ruled in support of the project on April 16. Evers has the option of requesting an additional 180 days following the original 365-day timeline.
When contacted, a Ho-Chunk spokesperson acknowledged the plan was still under review by Evers’ office, but did not provide further details regarding the status of the project.
A two-part ruling is required on gaming fee-to-trust acquisitions. The proposal would allow the transfer of 33 acres of land into trust land status as part of a larger 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 project could generate up to 1,500 jobs and include a casino with 2,200 Class Three gaming machines, 50 table games and approximately 139,700 square feet of gaming floor. The casino-resort would also include a food and beverage space of approximately 45,580 square feet with a 300-room hotel; 40,000-square-foot waterpark and a convention center with approximately 45,190 square feet of space for meetings and entertainment, according to project documents.
A spokesperson for Evers did not respond to requests for comment as of press time Thursday regarding the tribe’s proposal.
Ho-Chunk is also competing in Illinois for one of the five casino licenses previously granted by Gov. JB Pritzker.
The tribe’s Illinois application is competing with multiple developers representing potential host cities of Calumet City, Matteson and Homewood, all in south suburban Chicago. The tribe submitted its plan last year to the gaming board and received support of Lynwood officials.
Just down Interstate 90 in Rockford, the Hard Rock International plan to build a $310 million casino saw some movement on Thursday as the Illinois Gaming Board took action and unanimously approved an amendment to the application.
During the special meeting, IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter said the COVID-19 pandemic was to blame for the board delaying its decision on multiple casino license applications, including the one for Rockford.
The Rockford plan was slated for potential action within one year, with Thursday’s action representing a potential six-month delay for the Hard Rock proposal.
“This is not an excuse or a crutch. It is simply a recognition of the realities that work and life are different in a global pandemic,” Fruchter said. “To say that much has changed since that time would be an understatement. I know that this may be unsatisfying to some, but we have a process, and we are remaining faithful to it.”
The Hard Rock plan was submitted in October of 2019 and represents a major potential development for the city after Gov. J.B. Pritzker approved Rockford to be authorized for a casino as part of the governor’s massive gaming expansion legislation.
The 65,000-square-foot Rockford-based casino is planned at the site of the former Clock Tower Resort at East State Street and I-90 and would include a hotel, Hard Rock Café, Hard Rock Live concert venue and a retail component.