Tribal veterans at the Ho-Chunk Nation's Congressional Code Talker ceremony in April 2017. Photo: Ho-Chunk Nation

Ho-Chunk Nation outlines optimistic schedule for stalled off-reservation casino

The Ho-Chunk Nation thinks it can open an off-reservation in Wisconsin in four years even though there's been little movement on the federal level.

A pamphlet distributed by the tribe anticipates final approval in 2018, The Beloit Daily News reported. Construction could start in 2020 and the casino would open in the following year, the paper said.

The project enjoys strong local support. But the Bureau of Indian Affairs hasn't advanced the environmental impact statement beyond a scoping report released in January 2013.

The tribe is pursuing the casino under the two-part determination provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The law requires approval by the state governor in addition to the BIA.

But even if the state and the BIA agree, there's still one more step in the process -- the casino site must be placed in trust. Secretary Ryan Zinke, the leader of the Department of the Interior, has ordered such decisions to be made by political officials in Washington, D.C. rather than at the local level.

Jim Cason, the Associate Deputy Secretary at the department, has repeatedly said such acquisitions will be subjected to additional scrutiny. He already rejected two off-reservation applications in neighboring Michigan, citing the long distances between a tribe's headquarters and the proposed gaming sites.

In the case of the Ho-Chunks, their headquarters are more than 170 miles from the site in Beloit, though the tribe maintains a governmental office about 49 miles away in Madison.

The Trump administration also has added an off-reservation land-into-trust rule to its regulatory agenda for the coming year.

Read More on the Story:
Ho-Chunk increases presence as casino plan advances (The Beloit Daily News August 8, 2017)

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