A casino planned for the Sacramento Valley in Elk Grove, California got another step closer to reality on Wednesday when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a compact allowing the Wilton Rancheria Tribe to operate the gaming and entertainment center on 36 acres of land off Highway 99. The compact settles details such as revenue sharing, labor issues, environmental concerns and licensing issues.
However, the project has faced challenges and lawsuits brought by opponents of the $500 million resort, including opposition from so-called grass roots organizations like Stand Up For California! rumored to be funded by top casino operators and by other organizations funded by card rooms in the state that would lose business to a real casino operation.
The as yet unnamed Wilton Rancheria Casino was also given permission to deploy up to 2,500 slot machines, the same number in play at Thunder Valley Casino Resort, about an hour’s drive away from Elk Grove in Lincoln.
Slot machines are the major source of revenue for large tribal casinos in California. According to terms of the compact, Wilton Rancheria would contribute 6% of all slot winnings into a fund that disburses money to tribes in the state that do not operate casinos. Additional millions would be paid out to Elk Grove and the state under terms of the agreement.
Earlier this month it was announced that a land into trust issue, a necessary component of “off-reservation” tribal casino development, had been partially settled when an appeal was dismissed, making the Governor’s action more than symbolic. However, the compact must still be approved by the state legislature. There are also local and further federal issues to resolve before shovels can hit the dirt at the mostly Howard Huges Corp-owned The Outlet Collection mall on Kammerer Road.
Ground breaking for the $36 million casino and entertainment facility is not expected before 2020. The Boyd Gaming operated casino would also feature a 12-story hotel, spa and fitness center, 30,000 square feet of event and meeting space, 2,500 slot machines and more than 80 gaming tables.
The mall has been empty for half a decade and was chosen as an alternative site when the tribe and partner Boyd Gaming determined that a nearly 300-acre site in Galt “presented an insurmountable economic challenge,” according to June 2016 reports.
Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond C. Hitchcock said of the Governor’s action, “We are excited and grateful to the governor for his leadership in this effort,” Hitchcock said. “This is an important day for our people. We waited 58 years for our land to be restored and, now, we can look forward to moving ahead toward self-sufficiency, economic development and giving back to the community.”
This article has been updated to change the headline from “on hold” to “moves forward” and to change “is mired in legal issues” to “has faced challenges”. It has also been appended to include a statement from Wilton Rancheria’s Chairman, which was released to the media at the time of the governor’s compact signing.