BLACK RIVER FALLS (AP) - The Ho-Chunk tribal legislature has voted to move forward with a $144 million expansion at four casino locations, with work expected to begin this fall.The tribe plans to build a hotel and events center at the Ho-Chunk Gaming Nekoosa casino in the town of Port Edwards and a casino floor expansion, hotel and a conference center in Wittenberg, according to the Daily Herald Media.Both projects include parking structures and expansions of restaurant services.The project also includes expansions and improvements to casinos in Black River Falls and Wisconsin Dells.According to Gov. Scott Walker's office, the casinos are on tribal land and the expansions appear to conform to terms of the Ho-Chunk compact with the state, so the state doesn't have to approve the plans.Work is expected to begin in the early fall, said Collin Price, Ho-Chunk public relations officer. The first thing to be built at each site will be parking ramps."One of the important things is, we don't want to disrupt customers coming into the facilities," Price said. "We want to make it minimal as far as impact."The expansions are expected to make Ho-Chunk casinos comparable to other Wisconsin gaming facilities that already have added amenities such as hotels and restaurants. The North Star Mohican Casino in Bowler, for example, in 2010 completed a $100 million expansion that included 66,000 feet of casino space, a 150-room hotel, two restaurants and a convention hall.The tribe expects to create 317 permanent jobs at the four locations.Although the Ho-Chunk Nation likes to give tribal members employment opportunities, about 70 percent of the 3,000 people it now employs are not tribal members, Price said."One of the best parts of working for the nation is the benefits package," Price said. "We have packages for employees that have top-notch health care."
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