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Beloit, Ho-Chunk not worried about stateline casino border battle

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BELOIT (WKOW) — Beloit and Ho-Chunk leaders say they’re not worried, after the governor of Illinois challenged Rockford this week to build a casino first.

The two communities have been planning separate projects for decades, but both have made progress towards making them a reality in recent weeks.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Monday he’s hoping to fast-track the plans to bring a casino to Rockford, after signing a law that expands gaming in that state.

“We’re going to do everything possible to help Rockford beat Beloit and attract casino goers across the border,” he said.

But Beloit leaders say they’re not worried by his bold challenge.

“Game on,” said Visit Beloit executive director Celestino Ruffini. “Beloit’s ready to beat Rockford.”

Ruffini says no matter what happens across the border, a more than $400 million planned Ho-Chunk casino and resort in Beloit would be the biggest economic development ever in the city.

“It really serves as a great challenge to us, but a challenge for us to do better, to take it to the next level and to really succeed beyond any of the wildest expectations any of us have here in Beloit,” he said.

The development is expected to become a tourist destination on its own, including not only a casino but also a waterpark, hotel and convention center.

“We know that the expanse of our project is just going to outweigh any concerns that we have about competition in Rockford,” said Ryan Greendeer, PR officer for Ho-Chunk Nation.

Ho-Chunk has partnered with Rockford to develop plans that could work well together.

Ruffini tells 27 News a pair of casinos could be a benefit to the Stateline region, looking to Dubuque as an example of where it’s working.

“Dubuque, in the last couple of years, has already prospered and taken advantage of being a gaming destination,” he said. “Both have done well, but the major difference here in Beloit is our casino complex will truly be a destination for people to come to.”

He says with the proposed development, Beloit would be able to host conventions Rockford won’t have room for, like state association meetings.

It’ll be the second-largest gaming facility in the state, according to officials, creating 1,500 permanent jobs.

The development is planned for a site off I-39/90 on Willowbrook Road, which could attract visitors from both states.

“The people who are going to be driving by are hopefully going to be having their eyes on the casino and say, ‘Hey, let me stop here’,” Greendeer said.

Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther agreed, releasing a statement to 27 News about Rockford’s project, which reads, in part:

Once completed, this resort destination will bring needed growth in terms of jobs, shared revenues and economic development to the greater Beloit area.

The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is still reviewing plans for the Beloit casino. The project has been under review for years but made progress in May with a final environmental impact statement.

BIA will issue a final determination at some point after a 30-day comment period. Then, it goes to the desk of Gov. Tony Evers.

The Rockford project needs approval from the Illinois Gaming Board, by late October.

Read more https://wkow.com/news/top-stories/2019/07/02/beloit-ho-chunk-not-worried-about-stateline-casino-border-battle/

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