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OP-ED: Odds favor success with proposed Ho-Chunk casino in Beloit

Marlon WhiteEagle

Marlon WhiteEagle

In the July 25, 2019, Op-Ed letter on, Edward Panelli, founder of Executive Business Services, expressed some concerns about a proposed Ho-Chunk Nation casino and entertainment complex in Beloit.

We are delighted that Mr. Panelli is in support of the federal approval and that he is eager to learn more about the process and what the proposed complex will have to offer.

First of all, the proposed complex is more than just a casino. It is planned to have ample space for a convention center, a water park, restaurants, and an entertainment venue for shows and concerts.

The wages provided would far exceed the minimum wage and provide opportunities for yearly increases. In addition to wages, the Ho-Chunk Nation has one of the best healthcare-insurance programs in the state, having provided more than $71 million in healthcare costs to our employees in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

When people work for the Ho-Chunk Nation, they are doing so as the result of a choice. They could apply for a job in manufacturing. However, not all people are suited to that type of work.

Manufacturing jobs can be unstable; many of them are moving south of the border, where labor costs are low. Once the Ho-Chunk Nation establishes a casino and entertainment complex in the Beloit area, it’s not going anywhere and employment will remain steady.

If the proposed complex were to “take away” jobs from the manufacturing sector for “lower-paying jobs,” logically it would seem unlikely that a person — all other things being equal — would choose a lower-paying job. Certainly, the choice would be up to the person seeking the job and the type of work that would interest the employee.

It would be erroneous to make an assumption that Beloit families would be devastated because of losses at the casino. First of all, the clientele of the casino would come from far away, even Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison, so any financial effect would not be limited to Beloit families. Secondly, there’s an ill-founded assumption that most gamblers will lose money and lose more than they can afford. Ho-Chunk Gaming has always stressed that gambling is strictly for entertainment purposes and its client should only wager what they can afford. If gambling becomes a problem, Ho-Chunk Gaming can help refer a customer to resources to help them with any addiction.

Beloit or the state will not lose taxes because of the development. In fact, an agreement with Beloit and the county assures both that they each will receive a percentage of the gaming revenue. In addition, a considerable amount of sales tax will be generated from the many stores and restaurants connected with the complex, as well as state and federal income taxes from the wage earners employed there.

Then there’s the questionable assumption that any revenue generated by the business will be disbursed to tribal members by per capita payments and then invested outside Wisconsin. The Ho-Chunk Nation has no businesses outside Wisconsin other than a sports complex in Lynwood, Illinois.

All told, the proposed casino, water park, conference center, and entertainment complex will be mutually beneficial for the city of Beloit and the Ho-Chunk Nation. It will provide more than 1,500 new jobs and many opportunities for people from outside the city to come, stay, be entertained, eat, and shop at local businesses.

It will be good for the local and state economy, as well as good for the residents of Beloit.

– Marlon WhiteEagle, president of the Ho-Chunk Nation

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