Ho-Chunk Nation President Wilfrid Cleveland, center in hat, and leaders of other tribes joined Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) for the signing of a burial preservation law and tribal identification law at the state capitol in Madison on April 3, 2018. Photo: Ho-Chunk Nation

Ho-Chunk Nation still waiting for movement on off-reservation casino

The Ho-Chunk Nation remains optimistic of plans for an off-reservation casino in Wisconsin even though the Bureau of Indian Affairs hasn't taken concrete action in more than five years.

The tribe is ready to invest $405 million in a gaming facility and resort in Beloit. But the BIA has yet to move beyond a scopting report that was released in January 2013.

"The plan's on their desk," President Wilfrid Cleveland said at a meeting on Monday night, The Beloit Daily News reported. "It's moving through (BIA) and there are varying circumstances that have to be met."

The next step in the process would be a draft environmental impact statement. The document was anticipated in "Fall 2015" but that deadline has obviously slipped.

Architectural rendering of the proposed Ho-Chunk Nation casino in Beloit, Wisconsin. Image: Cuningham Group

The tribe was hoping to see some movement this year though it's anyone's guess whether that will happen.

"We hope it would progress but we have to focus on our work at home as (the plan) moves around," Cleveland said, The News reported. "We don't view it as a delay. It's a slow moving process."

The tribe is pursuing the project under the two-part determination provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, a process that is is very time-consuming.

It took the Spokane Tribe, the most recent to complete a two-part determination, about a decade to secure approval for a casino that finally opened in Washington earlier this year.

The process is also very political. Assuming the BIA approves, the Ho-Chunk Nation still has to secure a concurrence from the state governor, something that's only happened in Wisconsin once, way back in 1990.

More recently, the Menominee Nation tried to open an off-reservation casino through the two-part determination process. Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican who is running for re-election, rejected that project back in 2015.

Tony Evers, the superintendent of the state's public school system who is considered the leading Democrat in an upcoming primary, has said he will approve the Ho-Chunk casino if it crosses his desk.

Finally, assuming the BIA and the state governor agree, the tribe still has to secure approval of the land-into-trust application for the project site.

Beloit is located in the southern part of Wisconsin, along the border with Illinois. It falls within the Congressional district of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), who is retiring from the House.

Read More on the Story:
Tribe remains optimistic on casino (The Beloit Daily News April 24, 2018)
Beloit and Rockford race for casinos in their cities (MyStateline.Com April 23, 2018)

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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