In California, the plan from the Wilton Rancheria to build a $400 million casino resort in southern Sacramento County is still reportedly being delayed while the administration of President Donald Trump reviews decisions by the office of predecessor Barack Obama and formulates new policies on tribal gambling operations.
According to a report from The Sacramento Bee newspaper, the Wilton Rancheria’s original land-into-trust application for the site in the city of Elk Grove was approved by the United States Department Of The Interior on January 19, which was President Obama’s final full day in office, but this was subsequently delayed due to an order from the incoming Trump administration to hold “all Federal Register documents” until they could be reviewed.
“It’s speculative as to where this will end up,” tribal law expert and attorney Howard Dickstein told The Sacramento Bee. “It’s going to be a significant period of time before the United States Department Of The Interior makes a determination on the property. Until then, I think it is unlikely that this particular project can move forward.”
The newspaper reported the Wilton Rancheria via partner Boyd Gaming Corporation purchased the 35.9-acre plot from real estate developer The Howard Hughes Corporation in February of 2015 for $36 million and hopes to construct a twelve-story hotel along with a spa, 30,000 sq ft events space, fitness center and casino complete with 2,000 slots and 84 gaming tables. However, the tribe needs the United States Department Of The Interior to definitively place the land just south of the state capital of Sacramento into trust before it can begin construction.
With the federally-recognized tribe’s proposal in a holding pattern, The Sacramento Bee reported that the plan is likely to come under new scrutiny from the Chairman for the United States House Committee On Natural Resources, Rob Bishop, as well as Ryan Zinke, the recently-appointed leader of the United States Department Of The Interior.
“There is precedent for the reversal of last-minute actions made by an outgoing administration’s personnel following an investigation,” read a February 15 statement from Bishop, a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from Utah.
Critics of the planned casino have reportedly argued that the federal government did not follow proper procedures in granting the original land-into-trust application while Bishop further wrote that the decision should be reversed if it was done “without a fair consideration of the affected interests”.
For its part, the Wilton Rancheria is remaining optimistic with tribal chairman Raymond Hitchcock telling the newspaper that the casino project “continues to progress” although he declined to provide details about any movements towards breaking ground or whether the tribe had begun conversations with the state regarding a gaming compact.