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Gov. Evers advances plans for $405M Ho-Chunk casino in Beloit

Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday announced he has approved the Ho-Chunk Nation’s plan to build a $405 million casino in Beloit, a step toward the start of construction on the project after more than a decade of planning.

Evers concurred with a ruling from the U.S. Department of Interior last April that 32 acres of land designated for the project should be taken into a trust for the purpose of building the casino off Interstate 39/90, a half-mile from the Illinois border. The project, which includes plans for an indoor waterpark, a 300-room hotel and 45,000 square feet of convention space, could create some 2,000 construction jobs.

With Evers’ concurrence, the U.S. Department of Interior must issue its final determination on whether to take the land for the project into a trust. Evers and the Ho-Chunk Nation must also amend the nation’s gaming compact to take into account the new casino and other related issues.

“As we work to bounce back from this pandemic, we must do everything we can to support economic development in communities across our state,” Evers said in a statement. “The Ho-Chunk Nation and local officials in Beloit and Rock County have been working together toward providing jobs and long-term economic support in the region, and this is an important step forward in making the Beloit casino a reality.”

Federal officials sided  last year with the Ho-Chunk in finding 32 acres of land needed for the project should be placed in a trust and that the proposed casino most likely wouldn’t harm the surrounding community. Federal law requires Evers’ approval of the plan before the project can proceed. While campaigning for governor in Beloit, Evers said he would approve the casino project.

A report on the project’s likely economic effects found building a new casino in Beloit would create up to 2,500 construction jobs and result in $539.8 million in total spending.

“We are incredibly excited to have this great news of the Governor’s concurrence today,” said Ho-Chunk Nation Vice President Karena Thundercloud, in a statement. “We also want to thank the City of Beloit, Rock County, and our respective communities for all the support over the past several years. We look forward to the day when we can celebrate everybody who is helping this project along.”

While plans for the proposed Ho-Chunk casino move ahead, plans for another casino are advancing just over the border in Illinois.

Last month, state gaming officials granted a license to start construction at a temporary site for what would be a Hard Rock Casino in Rockford, Illinois. The $310 million project would need further approval to get underway at its permanent location in the city. That project is expected to create more than 1,000 construction jobs.

About Nate Beck, [email protected]

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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