Last Thursday, the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin heard quite possibly the best news in quite a while. After years of pleas and maneuvering, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) decided to give the tribe the approval they need for taking land into trust. 20 years ago, the Ho-Chunk Nation expressed its desire to build a massive casino on a 73-acre plot of land in Beloit, Wisconsin. Now, their claim is finally noticed.
All in all, the formal process of placing this plot into trust lasted seven years, but it was actually only the first hurdle in the process. Governor Tony Evers has to sign the project off if anything is to happen, as he has the power to veto any off-reservation business acquisitions by Native American tribes. There are some inter-state implications involved, too.
The Ho-Chunk Nation has been the biggest casino operator in Wisconsin for some time now. While many have accused them of being overly aggressive, the real reason behind their success is shrewd planning. Just like the Ione Band of Miwok Indians managed to succeed in California, the Wisconsin tribe had its eyes on the exclusive location ever since 2000.
This is considered yet another victory for the former Wisconsin Winnebago Tribe, which changed its name to the current one after a section of their people was moved to a reservation in Nebraska. Currently, they own land in five different US states, making them one of the most expansive Native American tribes. As for their heart of operations, Wisconsin was always the designated base of operations, gambling, or otherwise.
Black River Falls, Wisc. is the location of their main headquarters, with casinos operating in towns such as Baraboo, Madison, Nekoosa, and Tomah. One thing that makes the tribe so unique is their non-reservation status, which means that members are in private ownership of their land, which in stark contrast to the collectivism that we’ve gotten used to.
It’s also worth noting that the speeding up of the tribe’s casino plans brought them one step closer to potential expansion to Illinois. The city of South Beloit in IL is basically a suburb of Beloit, WI. Therefore, the Ho-Chunk Nation will potentially have access to a plethora of players from the state of Illinois.
As a part of their efforts to be a proper powerhouse at the interstate border, the tribe will erect a hotel, waterpark, casino, and convention center on the 73-acre plot.
The Echo of Implications
The city of Beloit has long supported the erection of a casino in their community. Once the BIA announced its decision, councilmen publicly stated that they will urge the Governor to give his signature ASAP. Gov. Evers stated that he will indeed give the green light to such an ambitious casino project, but nothing is ever certain.
Aside from resulting in changes in the local community, it is believed that a Ho-Chunk Nation-run casino will spoil the plans for expansion down in Illinois. Both Beloit, WI and Rockford, IL have been competing for a casino license.
With this decision, the BIA effectively axed any plans for a casino in Rockford. Experts say that this could be a potentially big hit to the economy of the county, as excitement was palpable upon the announcement of Hard Rock Int. as a contender for the license. Nevertheless, it is unclear what will the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) decides to do. As of April 23, there are no indications about which location in the state would prove to be a viable alternative.
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