A conceptual design for the proposed Ho-Chunk Nation off-reservation in Beloit, Wisconsin. Image: Ho-Chunk Nation

Ho-Chunk Nation remains hopeful for off-reservation casino in Wisconsin

The Ho-Chunk Nation and supporters are hoping the Trump administration will approve the tribe's off-reservation casino in Wisconsin.

According to The Beloit Daily News, local officials met with the Bureau of Indian Affairs last week to discuss the project in Beloit. They were told that the process is moving forward, the paper reported.

"This facility will help the Nation provide desperately needed services for our tribal members," Ho-Chunk Nation District IV Legislator Shelby Visintin told the paper. "Area tribal members will also be employed at the new facility and the revenues will allow us to expand educational opportunities, housing, health care services and nutritional programs for our members."

There was little movement on the project during the Obama administration. The BIA started preparing an environmental impact statement but it never advanced beyond a scoping report released in January 2013.

The tribe is pursuing the casino under the two-part determination provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The law requires approval by the state governor in addition to the BIA.

An aerial view of the Ho-Chunk Nation's proposed off-reservation casino site along Interstate 39 in Beloit, Wisconsin. Image: Google Earth

Even if the state and the BIA agree, there's still one more step in the process -- the casino site must be placed in trust. Secretary Ryan Zinke, the leader of the Department of the Interior, has ordered such decisions to be made by political officials in Washington, D.C.

Jim Cason, the Associate Deputy Secretary at the department, has repeatedly told tribes and Congress that off-reservation acquisitions will be subjected to additional scrutiny.

The site in Beloit is more than 170 miles from Ho-Chunk headquarters in Black River Falls but the tribe also maintains a governmental office about 49 miles away in Madison. It's located off I-39, a major highway.

Read More on the Story:
Beloit Ho-Chunk casino proposal gets a boost (The Beloit Daily News 7/18)

Federal Register Notice:
Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Ho-Chunk Nation Beloit Casino Project, City of Beloit, Rock County, WI (November 26, 2012)

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