In an effort to stop the Wilton Rancheria Tribe from building a $400 million casino resort on 35.9 acres of land in central Sacramento County, opponents of the casino have started to gather signatures for a ballot referendum to reverse the Elk Grove City Council’s recent decision in favor of the casino.

The land, located along a portion of California State Route 99 in Elk Grove, is owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation, which is currently in the process of building The Outlet Collection at Elk Grove, a retail outlet with restaurants and entertainment, on the parcel next to the casino site. Opponents of the proposed casino are hoping to gather enough signatures to enable the ballot question and reverse the City Council’s decision which released the corporation from a previously arranged option agreement. That decision enabled the land to be put into Federal trust for the tribe; something that would not have been possible had the 36 acres remained encumbered.

One of the signature gatherers, who along with others has been working in front of local retail stores in the Elk Grove community, acknowledged that he and the others were paid to work on the petition drive that he said has garnered some 4,000 signatures in the five days they have been working. He said, “If they say they aren’t paid, they are lying,” according to the Elk Grove News. The signature gatherer said that he did not know who was sponsoring the petition but suspected a competing Indian casino was responsible.

The Wilton Rancheria casino would likely be a regional competitor of what are considered to be the most lucrative tribal gaming venues in the area, including the United Auburn Indian Community’s Thunder Valley Casino Resort and Red Hawk located outside of the town of Shingle Springs. Both of the casinos are within 40 miles or so of the Wilton Rancheria’s proposed casino, which would include a 12-story resort with 302 rooms, 2,000 gaming machines, 84 table games, and 30,000 square feet of event space.

Joining the sign waving fray, a proponent for the casino had a sign urging people to refrain from signing the petition. According to the news agency, it was sponsored by Region Business, which supports the casino. Joshua Wood, the executive director of the Sacramento business advocacy firm, said that progress on the project could be impeded by the petitions drive and he was disappointed to hear of it.

Wood, along with others who support the $400 million project, anticipate the casino would provide a boost to local construction jobs, be a significant long-term employer in the community, and be a catalyst for completion of Elk Grove’s new outlet mall which has sat empty for more than five years. Wood said that the supporters of the petitions are not being honest about what the petition is and its potential to hurt the mall, according to the news agency.

Chairman of the Wilton Rancheria, Raymond Hitchcock, told the news agency that he was disappointed to hear about the signature drive and echoed Wood’s assessment regarding its potential effect on the construction of the outlet mall.

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