Wisconsin Tribal Gaming Interests Closely Monitoring Casino Expansion Status in Neighboring Illinois
A Wisconsin Indian tribe that operates a chain of six casino properties in the Badger State is reportedly keeping a very close eye on the progress – or more accurately, the lack of progress – of proposed gambling expansion in the neighboring state of Illinois.
The Ho-Chunk Nation, which has casinos in Wittenberg, Black River Falls, Madison, Nekoosa, Tomah, as well as in the popular vacation destination the Wisconsin Dells, is in the process of developing a seventh property in Beloit.
Beloit lies in the mid-southern Wisconsin, just across the state line from Rockford, Illinois, a city that was among five in contention to get a casino license had Land of Lincoln legislators passed a casino expansion bill.
Failure of Illinois bill is promising for Ho-Chunk
The Illinois bill, known as Senate Bill 1739, died in the Illinois House of Representatives last week after it failed to be called to a vote. The bill, whose sponsor, Democratic Representative Bob Rita, has promised it will be improved during the summer recess months and will come back a better, and less controversial, piece of legislation in the fall, would have allowed for the installation of slots machines to Chicago’s two airports in addition to the construction of the five casinos.
With the Rockford casino off the table, at least for the near future, Beloit officials are surely breathing easier as the Ho-Chunk Casino slated for that city awaits approval by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. A date when ground will be broken on the project has not been made public.
Beloit City Manager Larry Arft seemed confident that the project is proceeding appropriately, remarking this week, “The Beloit project is moving forward at a pretty steady pace.”
“We remain cautiously optimistic. It will take probably most of another year to get all these processes and review timelines completed,” Arft said.
Casino bill just one of several dead-end bills in Illinois
The casino bill was just one of a few pieces of legislation that went nowhere during the recently-finished legislative term. A marriage equality bill that would have made Illinois the second state in the Midwest region behind Minnesota to legalize same-sex marriage also died without ever being called to a vote.
For his part, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said that he would not sign a casino bill until Illinois lawmakers passed a comprehensive pension reform bill. That bill, like so many others on the Illinois legislative agenda this year, went nowhere.
Illinois Governor facing challenges in wake of legislative defeats
The Governor is facing stiff criticism for his inability to score any legislative wins this term, with a host of gubernatorial hopefuls remarking this week that they may challenge the Governor for his seat in 2014. Among those considering a run is Bill Daley, the brother of Chicago’s longtime Mayor Richard M. Daley, and a former Chief of Staff in the Clinton White House.
The current mayor of Chicago, also a former White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, was one of the casino expansion bill’s most visible supporters, having said that the money generated by the Chicago casino would have been of great importance in improving the city’s struggling schools.
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