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How Many Casinos Could The Southern Wisconsin & Northern Illinois Market Support?

Mariusz Blach/

There could be a casino coming to Beloit. The Ho-Chunk Nation is seeking federal approval for the plan, but the final decision would be up to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

As the Beloit proposal looms and another casino could be built in Rockford, Ill., just how many casinos can the southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois market support?

A different casino project, proposed by the Menominee Tribe for Kenosha, died a few years ago. Then-Gov. Scott Walker rejected it, in part because of opposition from the Forest County Potawatomi. Its Milwaukee casino is just 40 miles from the rejected Kenosha development. However, the Potawatomi says it would not fight the Ho-Chunk plan for Beloit, which is twice as far away. Evers says if the item makes it to his desk, he'll consider all angles.

Read: Why The Kenosha Casino Deal Didn't Work Out

There was a rapid growth period in commercial casino building from the 1990s to early this century, resulting in three casinos in northern Illinois — in Elgin, Aurora and Des Plaines. Could the market also support the Beloit operation, as well as if one is proposed for Rockford, Ill.?

Credit Screenshot/Google Maps
The proposed Beloit casino would be located at Colley and Willowbrook Roads, just north of the Illinois border.

Mark Nichols, a University of Nevada-Reno economics professor, says you would see a lot of those casinos competing against each other and it would be questionable if the market could support that many operations. He says the casinos would compete for the existing stock of customers, and their ability to bring in new customers who weren't gambling at all, is not as great as when there were fewer casinos.

Read: Some Residents Thrilled, Others Leery Of Proposed Beloit Casino

One good example is Reno, Nev., which has a concentration of casinos. For a while, many of the area's out-of-state customers came from northern California. But when casinos opened in the Bay Area and in Sacramento, Cali., Reno's casinos lost 30 percent of their revenue. They've begun growing again but have not gone back to the level they were at prior to casinos opening in northern California.

The Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs could decide as early as this spring whether the Ho Chunk can locate a casino in Beloit.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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