Construction continues on an expansion of the Ho-Chunk Nation's gaming facility in Wittenberg, Wisconsin. Photo: Ho-Chunk Gaming Wittenberg

Ho-Chunk Nation sees more support for off-reservation casino in Wisconsin

The Ho-Chunk Nation enjoys strong support for an off-reservation casino in Wisconsin that's been in the works for years.

Members of Congress, state lawmakers and local officials say the casino in Beloit will boost the economy. But the Bureau of Indian Affairs hasn't done much to advance the environmental impact statement for the project beyond a scoping report released in January 2013.

Then there's Gov. Scott Walker (R), whose approval will be required if the BIA takes action while he's in office. He rejected a similar off-reservation casino for another tribe and hasn't offered a position on the Ho-Chunk project, The Beloit Daily News reported.

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.

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 Trump administration is in fact considering a new rule to erect more hurdles in the process.

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:
State, federal reps support Beloit casino plan (The Beloit Daily News 7/21)

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