Public weighs economic impact of proposed Beloit casino

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BELOIT (WKOW) — The proposed plan for a Ho-Chunk Gaming Casino Resort in Beloit took a step forward Tuesday as the Bureau of Indian Affairs hosted a public hearing on the project.

The city was unanimous in its support. Andrew Janke, Beloit’s Economic Development Director, has been working on the project for years.

He believes it would be an economic boon for the city, bringing in 1500 new jobs and $84 million in wages, making it the Beloit’s largest employer.

“The impact will be regional, so not only will these jobs be made available to individuals here in Rock County but throughout the region including Winnebago County as well.”

Janke, said it would work to further diversify the economy in the region, something Beloit has been working to do for years.

Another plus is the casino’s location. Along I-90, just north of the Illinois border, the casino would be easily accessible and the only resort of its kind for hours. Under Illinois law, the state can’t develop comparable projects.

“The sooner we can get it up and running the better,” he said.

Some in the crowd weren’t as sure. Tom Holmes came to the meeting to express his concern that the promised resort may be too good to be true.

“My fear is we may go shopping for Cadillacs and end up with a skateboard,” he said.

He worried, with an alternative plan already under consideration, the casino resort may drop the resort aspect and simply build a casino, providing fewer opportunities than promised.

Even if the project is completed in full, Holmes said he was concerned the wages that come with service jobs wouldn’t be able to provide a living for many in Beloit.

“Janitors and waitresses?” he said. “We need middle and upper management jobs, people that make good money.”

Wages at Ho-Chunk’s Baraboo casino average around $15 an hour. Over a year that would bring in a salary of a little more than $32,000. That is about $5000 less than Beloit’s current median household income, $37,779.

“There are still folks out there looking for opportunities for employment this is just another opportunity of many others that are available in the marketplace,” Janke said.

Janke said if the of Indian Affairs approves the proposal its next step is approval from incoming Governor Tony Evers. Evers has signaled support for the project.

If it passes all of these hurdles, the city expects to break ground in late 2019 or early 2020.

Michelle Alfini

Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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