In California, opponents of a plan from the federally-recognized Wilton Rancheria tribe to build a $400 million resort casino in central Sacramento County have filed a lawsuit accusing the city of Elk Grove of violating strict state environmental laws.
According to a report from The Sacramento Bee newspaper, a local gambling watchdog calling itself Stand Up For California has teamed up with a pair of unidentified local residents to file the action in Sacramento County Superior Court alleging that city officials broke provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act in allowing real estate developer The Howard Hughes Corporation to sell land to the tribe for the purposes of building the casino.
The Wilton Rancheria wants to construct a twelve-story hotel along with a spa, 30,000 sq ft events space, fitness center and casino with 2,000 slots and 84 gaming tables on 35.9 acres of land in the city of Elk Grove just south of the state capital of Sacramento. The plan would also see The Howard Hughes Corporation complete an adjacent outlet shopping mall with proponents of the development claiming that the gambling element would make the whole project more economically viable.
However, the lawsuit from Stand Up California claims that Elk Grove officials violated the California Environmental Quality Act in endorsing the October 12 land sale without first undertaking an environmental review of the project while ignoring “evidence that the casino would cause environmental impacts”.
“The suit speaks for itself,” Cheryl Schmit from Stand Up For California told The Sacramento Bee while reportedly declining to reveal who was helping to fund the litigation.
The planned Wilton Rancheria casino would most likely serve as a major regional competitor to one of northern California’s most lucrative tribal gambling establishments, the United Auburn Indian Community’s Thunder Valley Casino Resort, which is located some 41 miles away near the city of Lincoln. It would moreover sit only 37 miles from the Red Hawk Casino outside of the town of Shingle Springs while the Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort would be about 46 miles away in Amador County.
As if the local casino market wasn’t crowded enough, the Wilton Rancheria casino, which is to be constructed in partnership with Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming Corporation, would furthermore be located around 63 miles from the Cache Creek Casino Resort in Yolo County while July saw the Estom Yumeka Maidu Tribe Of Enterprise Rancheria suspend construction on its planned $186 million Fire Mountain Resort And Casino some 52 miles away near Yuba City.
For its part, The Howard Hughes Corporation told the newspaper that the casino would be “essential” to its efforts to complete development of the half-built mall as the whole site has been a fenced-off eyesore on the south side of Elk Grove since a previous developer went bankrupt in 2009.
The Wilton Rancheria is additionally facing opposition to its planned casino from an unidentified group that recently collected some 14,900 signatures in an effort to launch a local ballot referendum against the project. If held and passed, this action would overturn the city’s approval of the land sale although the ballot effort is being criticized by a section of the Region Business building contractor alliance for a failure to disclose appropriate financial statements.