n the application to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the tribes seek federal trust status which would put the land under their control for use as a gambling site outside state jurisdiction. The BIA and Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle would still have to give approval for the project to go forward.
Project spokesmen said in a news release that the regional approval came after a full review of the proposal and how it would meet criteria under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. “One of the main purposes of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act is for disadvantaged tribes to gain success through gaming,” Bad River Chairman Eugene Bigboy said in the release. “When we were invited to Beloit we did not have a clear idea that the trust land approval process would move so slowly.”
The formal process dates back to a referendum vote in November 2000, when the efforts of the city to reach agreement with the tribes won 61 percent backing of Beloit voters. “We are glad that the application was approved at the regional office, but there are still some obstacles that must be overcome,” Bigboy said. “We believe that the most difficult part of the process is behind us. As I've said before - we're going to get this project built.”
St. Croix Chairman David Merrill expressed thanks for community support the project has received. “This project will provide both the St. Croix and Bad River people with much needed economic development,” Merrill said. “We are grateful to Beloit, South Beloit and Rock County, and all the volunteers and elected representatives who continue to support the project. We are eager to move forward.”
Local and tribal officials are scheduled to meet Wednesday at the Department of Interior in Washington with Director of Indian Gaming George Skibine. “Ultimately, it's the Secretary of Interior who makes the decision whether to accept it,” said BIA spokesman Gary Garrison. “It will be a couple of months, at least. The next step would be to send it on to the governor.”