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

Ho-Chunk Nation sees support from Congress in bid for off-reservation casino

Four members of Congress are calling on the Trump administration to approve an off-reservation casino for the Ho-Chunk Nation.

The tribe submitted an application for the project in Beloit, Wisconsin, four years ago but there's been little movement on it on the federal level. The lawmakers - all Democrats -- say it's time for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take action on the environmental impact statement.

“This proposed gaming facility will provide significant economic benefits for the City of Beloit and Rock County, the state of Wisconsin and the Ho-Chunk Nation," the lawmakers wrote in a September 20 letter to Secretary Ryan Zinke, the leader of the Department of the Interior. "The project will support additional business development and infrastructure improvements in the region. It will allow the tribe to expand educational, housing and health care services for its members.”

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.

But 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. Zinke has already ordered such decisions to be made by political officials in Washington, D.C. rather than at the local level.

Jim Cason, the Associate Deputy Secretary at the department, has repeatedly said such acquisitions will be subjected to additional scrutiny. In July, he rejected two off-reservation applications in neighboring Michigan, citing the long distances between a tribe's headquarters and the proposed gaming sites.

In the case of the Ho-Chunks, their headquarters are more than 170 miles from the site in Beloit, though the tribe maintains a governmental office about 49 miles away in Madison.

The Trump administration also has added an off-reservation land-into-trust rule to its regulatory agenda for the coming year.

Read More on the Story:
Representatives urging action on Beloit casino (The Beloit Daily News September 25, 2017)

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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