Beloit and Rockford race for casinos in their cities

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An empty patch of land just west of I-90 in Beloit could soon be home to a multi-million dollar casino project.

“We’re looking at a direct payment to the city, payment in lieu of tax if you will that would be in excess of the three and a half million a year,” said Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther.

The city of Beloit and Ho-Chunk Nation Monday night discussed a potential casino, hotel, and water park being built near the corner of Willowbrook and Colley Road. Those involved say it’s been a goal to have it in Beloit for 20 years.

“In the early 90’s when we first compacted with the state, that fourth site has always been in the back of our minds,” said Ho-Chunk Nation President Wilfrid Cleveland.

Cleveland says the casino would bring in 1,500 jobs, but says the added attractions would bring in those who don’t gamble. “It would almost become an attraction for not only the casino, but also for families to come and that would impact the city of Beloit and the county we reside in,” he added.

“It will mean literally millions of dollars out of Rockford’s economy,” argued Illinois Senator Dave Syverson. He says if the Beloit casino is approved, residents in Winnebago and Boone counties will spend their money across statelines, also hurting the area’s hotels and concert venues.

“We can’t compete with a facility that is that big that doesn’t pay taxes,” he said. Syverson and several Winnebago County board members are pushing to have a casino in Rockford. If the Illinois house passes a gaming bill within the next 30 days granting Rockford a casino license, Syverson says revenue won’t be lost to Wisconsin.

“Rockford has a choice, they can either fight for this thing now, or if Wisconsin gets one then it’s really too late for Rockford.” he said.

Beloit is waiting on approval from both the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and Governor Walker to approve the project. They hope to start construction in 2020. Syverson says if passed in the Illinois house in the next 30 days, construction on a Rockford casino would begin in 2019.

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