Expanded gaming floor open for business

Ho-Chunk Gaming Wittenberg holds ribbon cutting

PHOTO BY MIRIAM NELSON A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Nov. 1 for the expanded casino floor at Ho-Chunk Gaming Wittenberg. The next phase of the expansion project will be a three-meal restaurant, which is expected to open in mid-November. An 86-room hotel is scheduled to open mid-January. Officials at the ribbon cutting included, from left, Robert Mudd, executive director of business, Area III legislators Larry Walker Jr. and Kathy DeCamp, elder Dolli Big John and Robert Murphy, Miron project executive.

Local residents and visiting dignitaries gathered Nov. 1 at Ho-Chunk Gaming Wittenberg for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the expansion of the casino gaming floor.

“After the long road and a few hiccups along the way, we are happy it is finally open for all to enjoy,” said LeAnthony Pecore, Ho-Chunk senior manager of public relations, who served as master of ceremonies.

Sean Burnette, director of slot operations, noted that the first guests were allowed in at 4 p.m., and the first jackpot hit at 4:15 p.m.

The expanded gaming area provides more slot machines, a non-smoking section and video poker games at the bar. Texas Hold ’em, blackjack and virtual roulette will soon be available.

Miron project executive John Murphy said the success of the project was due to the team effort involving contractors, buyers and local workers.

“It’s an honor to be here and celebrate the new gaming floor,” he said.

Larry Walker Jr. and Kathy DeCamp, members of the Ho-Chunk Area III Legislature, talked about the history of the project. Funding for the casino was OK’d in November 2007. It opened in 2008.

“It’s a great location on U.S. Highway 45 and Wisconsin Highway 29 for bringing in people, as well as catering to locals,” Walker said. “It’s always been in the plans to expand.”

DeCamp spoke on the vision of the Ho-Chunk, who work on sacred tribal lands in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota in areas such as health education, youth services, arts and crafts and the Native American church.

The Lake Delton Singers opened and closed the ceremonies with traditional songs and drumming. Hors d’oeuvres, cash drawings and entertainment by singer Brian James rounded out the festivities.

Ho-Chunk Gaming in Wittenberg is one of three Ho-Chunk Nation casinos slated for major renovations and expansion as part of a $153 million project dubbed “Project Forward.” The other casinos scheduled for improvements are in Wisconsin Dells and Black River Falls.

The Wittenberg project also includes a new 86-room hotel and 84-seat restaurant and bar. The restaurant is scheduled to open in mid-November, and the hotel should be ready for bookings in mid-January.

“The expansion of the casino is going to create more jobs in our area, and that’s a good thing,” said Dick Beversdorf, chairman of the town of Wittenberg.