'More than a casino': As Beloit Ho-Chunk development grows closer, a look at its possible impact

Wednesday 22nd April 2020

BELOIT, Wis. - Close to 1,000 jobs could be created for locals should the Ho-Chunk Nation casino and resort be approved in Beloit.

On April 16, the Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the nation's request to build in Rock County. Now, the Ho-Chunk Nation is waiting on approval from Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers.

"Federal approval was just one of the few final steps that are left," said Ho-Chunk Public Relations Officer Ryan Greendeer. "All along, we've been hoping we could get approval by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The big hurdles are already crossed."

Greendeer says the Beloit location would allow tourists from both Wisconsin and Illinois to visit the resort and casino, which would also include a hotel, restaurants and a water park.

"We're going to make this into a destination," Greendeer said. "People are going to come to Beloit and people are going to celebrate the natural beauty of the Beloit area."

In January, the City of Beloit announced an Amazon fulfillment center would create 500 jobs, locally. The approval of the casino could put stress on the job market, according to experts.

"The job market (pre-Coronavirus) was extremely tight," said Rhonda Suda, CEO of the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board. "There were more employers looking for workers than there were workers looking for work."

Suda says while this would likely mean employees coming to work in Beloit from as far as 50 miles away, the immediate region would still see economic impacts.

"You're definitely going to see an expansion in residential housing," Suda said. "You're going to see an expansion increased retail opportunities."

"This project is much more than a casino," said Celestino Ruffini of Visit Beloit. "It is and would be the largest economic development project to take place here in our city in decades, if not ever."

Greendeer says a timeline for the casino and resort's completion is unsure due to Coronavirus restrictions. He says it's likely that the project would be built in phases, but battling the virus is the nation's first priority in the meantime.

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