Rock County Board hears casino plan
On the Web
A copy of the intergovernmental agreement between the Ho-Chunk Nation, the city of Beloit and Rock County is available at the city of Beloit's website at www.ci.beloit.wi.us.
JANESVILLE Green construction, local jobs and a timeline were the top questions among Rock County Board members after hearing the first formal presentation on the proposed city of Beloit casino Thursday night.
Beloit Supervisor Robert Fizzell also wondered about guarantees of the project.
"This is a beautiful pie-in-the sky picture," he said. "Is there going to be any guarantee that anything will actually be developed? And are there specifications of what minimum must be built?"
Members of the Ho-Chunk Nation and Beloit City Manager Larry Arft presented the plans for the 145,000-square-foot casino and the intergovernmental agreement to the county board.
The Ho-Chunk Nation's casino also would include a 300-room hotel and a 35,000-square-foot convention center just off Interstate 90/39. The nation would invest $150 million to $200 million in the facility, which would employ up to 2,000 people.
Ho-Chunk has sovereign immunity, so to house a casino in a community, terms and conditions of the relationship with the host community are needed. The intergovernmental agreement spells out items such as land use, how city ordinances are enforced and how payments are made with Beloit and Rock County as the host communities.
The agreement addresses Fizzell's concerns about what will be developed, Arft said.
If the project were built after receiving federal and state approval, the agreement guarantees a full-service casino with hotel and convention center, he said.
"Beyond that, there is no guarantee the project will be approved by the federal Department of Interior," he said.
The approval process can take anywhere from 18 months to two years, he said. He said it could be three to three-and-a-half years before the facility could open.
Supervisors also questioned whether local workers would be used to build and run the facility.
Only 15 percent of the nation's gaming employees are tribal members, said Ho-Chunk Nation President Jon Greendeer.
Arft said he expected local workers to make up more than 80 percent of the Beloit facility's staff.
As the nation builds the facility, it would do what any other local government would do, Greendeer said.
"We're trying to get the most bang for our buck in these lean times, but also we came down here with the idea that there was a mutual benefit—our presences here, our potential for development would help the local community," he said.
Construction of this size would need larger union contractors, Arft said.
Janesville Supervisor Dave Innis asked about what specifications were included with "green contracts" for how the facility would be built.
Those details are not included at this stage, but they would come later as the city works with the nation on a development agreement and design plans, Arft said.
While it isn't spelled out how everyone would like it, Greendeer said green construction is an essential component, and he has discussed it with Arft.
Ho-Chunk would make quarterly payments of 2 percent of the casino's "net win" to the city, according to the agreement. The city would pay 30 percent of its share to Rock County.
No supervisors asked about the dollar amount the county might receive.
Arft has said at a previous meeting in Beloit that the nation's leaders weren't comfortable dropping a number, but they have given city officials a range of potential revenue based on their marketing projections.
"I can tell you that it is a substantial number," Arft said.
Officials will finalize details on the intergovernmental agreement, and county Administrator Craig Knutson said the county board might have a final draft to vote on at its Thursday, Feb. 9, or Thursday, Feb. 23, meetings.