Architectural rendering of the proposed Ho-Chunk Nation casino in Beloit, Wisconsin. Image: Cuningham Group

Ho-Chunk Nation still waiting for action on off-reservation casino

The Ho-Chunk Nation is still waiting for the Trump administration to take action on an off-reservation casino in Wisconsin.

Tribal officials recently discussed the $405.5 million project with the White House, The Beloit Daily News reported. But that hasn't resulted in any concrete movement in Washington, D.C., so far.

"We've had great feedback from the White House on this," President Wilfrid Cleveland said at an update on the project in December, the paper reported.

Still, tribal leaders remain optimistic that something will happen in the next month or so. The next step would be the publication of a draft environmental impact statement for the project in Beloit.

The tribe, meanwhile, updated its government-to-government agreement with the city, The Daily News reported. Local officials support the casino, which would include a hotel, convention center and indoor water park.

The tribe is pursuing the casino under the two-part determination provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The law requires approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs as well as the governor of Wisconsin.

Since IGRA became law in 1988, only five tribes -- including one in Wisconsin -- have opened casinos after completing both steps of the process. The Spokane Tribe debuted its long-awaited development in Washington just last month -- from start to finish, the effort took more than a decade.

A sixth tribe also completed both steps of the process but has yet to open a casino. The Shawnee Tribe had actually secured approval of its two-part determination application during the final year of the Obama administration.

The Trump team, however, held up the tribe's land-into-trust application in Oklahoma for another year. The new administration congratulated itself anyway.

In short, the federal government is proposing to stifle tribes from acquiring land into trust. Ho-Chunk and every tribal leader at the mic is in opposition to changing the process as proposed.

Posted by Ho-Chunk Nation on Thursday, January 18, 2018

The two-part determination process is separate from the land-into-trust process so tribes typically must complete both as they pursue off-reservation casinos. During the George W. Bush administration, one tribe finished the two-part determination process only to be rejected at the land-into-trust stage.

Also during the Bush era, the BIA blocked another tribe from pursuing an off-reservation casino by rejecting a gaming agreement that had the blessing of the state of Oregon.

The Trump administration is now discouraging tribes from seeking land away from existing reservations by making changes to changes to the Fee-to-Trust Regulations (25 CFR 151). Ho-Chunk Nation President Cleveland has spoken out against the proposal, which has generated uproar across Indian Country.

In addition to the six tribes with successful two-part determinations, two more in California have completed the process. Those projects are being held up by litigation filed by rival tribes and opposition groups.

Read More on the Story:
City re-approves Ho-Chunk agreement (The Beloit Daily News February 6, 2018)
Tribal leaders confident about casino complex (The Beloit Daily News December 22, 2017)
Beloit and Ho-Chunk Nation leaders unveil new casino expansion project (WIFR December 22, 2017)
Ho-Chunk casino proposal in Beloit still has ways to go (The Janesville Gazette December 21, 2017)

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