AP NEWS

Ho-Chunk Gaming $153M expansion will include Dells property

September 20, 2016 GMT

The Ho-Chunk Nation’s Wisconsin-based gaming empire is expanding.

The Nation on Monday announced a $153-million “casino expansion project” for three of its six properties, including its flagship hotel and casino in Wisconsin Dells.

The Dells property will undergo extensive renovation worth approximately $40 million of the overall investment total, according to Ho-Chunk Executive Director of Business Robert Mudd, with a new hotel main entrance and lobby and new hotel bar, poker room and off-track betting area among the planned improvements.

The Dells property’s expansion — along with expansion at the Black River Falls and Wittenberg casino properties — also will include a redesigned casino floor layout, an expanded non-smoking casino area, a renovated bingo area and a renovated and expanded buffet.

The overall project, which the Nation has dubbed “Project Forward,” also includes new hotels at both the Wittenberg and Black River Falls casinos, a new restaurant at the Wittenberg property and an expanded and redesigned casino floor at the Black River Falls property.

An expected 100 additional jobs — with an estimated 20 at the Dells casino and hotel, according to Mudd — will accompany the project, which is expected to take approximately 18 months.

The redesign and renovation of the Dells property will bring some food and beverage services closer to the casino floor, Mudd said, reflecting feedback the Nation has received from customers.

“There has been some indication over the years that they (customers) don’t like the location of the food and beverage, they’d rather have it closer to the casino floor,” he said. “We have to resituate things.”

Mudd joined several fellow Nation dignitaries — among them President Wilfred Cleveland and Ho-Chunk Gaming Executive Manger Casey Fitzpatrick — Monday afternoon during an official “Hammers to the Wall” ceremony at the Dells casino and hotel’s atrium.

In addition to several speakers, the ceremony featured the gathered dignitaries hammering ceremonial nails into a wall atop the a dais set up for the occasion. The Lake Delton Singers performed traditional Nation songs, with drumming, at the beginning and conclusion of the ceremony.

Construction work on the Dells renovations will begin “within this month,” according to Ho-Chunk spokesman Dave Abangan, and both the hotel and casino will remain open throughout.

“You might see temporary closing of some restaurants or moves, but business will be as usual,” Abangan said.