The U.S. Department of Interior on Jan. 22 published a federal register notice that announced the approval of the Wilton Rancheria’s tribal gaming compact with the state of California. The compact agreement allows the tribe to operate a casino-resort in Elk Grove.
Wilton Rancheria Tribal Chair Raymond “Chuckie” Hitchcock described that notice as a major step forward in this 758-member tribe’s ongoing efforts to have a $500 million casino-resort built near Highway 99 and Kammerer Road.
“This is another milestone on our journey to self-sufficiency,” he said. “Basically what this means for the tribe is affirmation of the compact between the state of California and the tribe (regarding its) trust land in Elk Grove, and another huge step for potentially opening the doors (of the casino-resort) in 2020 (or) 2021.”
Hitchcock mentioned that in a best-case scenario, ground would be broken for this project next summer, and construction would be completed in 18 to 24 months.
The tribal chair also credited elected officials who were instrumental in the process of having the compact approved by the state.
“I want to thank Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, Gov. (Jerry) Brown and the California legislature for their hard work and leadership unanimously approving and ratifying our tribal compact,” he said.
Although the three-day, federal government shutdown was still in effect on Jan. 22 when the federal notice was posted, because the Federal Register is considered a critical government function, it was not shut down and the posting was not delayed.
Prior to the publishing of the federal register notice, the tribe experienced several other milestones en route to its current status with its proposed casino-resort project.
The Wilton Rancheria had its tribal status restored in 2009 after losing that status more than a half-century earlier. In 2011, as the only federally recognized tribe in Sacramento County, the Wilton Rancheria adopted its modern constitution.
Last February, the U.S. Department of the Interior placed a 36-acre site into a federal trust as restored land for the tribe.
Following that action, that property, which is located next to the site of the future Outlet Collection at Elk Grove mall, was sold for $36 million to the tribe and Boyd Gaming, the tribe’s project partner.
Five months later, Brown signed a gaming compact between the tribe and the state.
That approval occurred less than a week after the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs dismissed an appeal by the Penryn-based Stand Up for California! against the placement of the proposed casino’s land into a federal trust.
Currently pending is a motion for a summary judgment filed by Stand Up for California! and three Elk Grove residents in the case against the federal decision to place land into trust for the Wilton Rancheria.
It challenges whether, on Jan. 19, 2017, Principal Deputy Secretary Larry Roberts had the authority to make a determination to take the land into trust for the Wilton Rancheria tribe and the city of Elk Grove.
Last August, both the Senate and Assembly unanimously approved Assembly Bill (AB) 1606, which ratifies the gaming compact between the state and the Wilton Rancheria.
Assembly Member Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, authored the bill.
Brown signed AB 1606 on Oct. 3, and in a special meeting with the governor on Dec. 7, Hitchcock presented the fully executed and ratified compact to the governor.
Also present at that gathering were Vice Chair Cammeron Hodson and the tribal council: David Andrews, Mark Andrews, Tonya Caldwell, Joseph Rangel, Elizabeth Singh, Jesus Tarango and Annette Williams.
Cooper commented about the Wilton Rancheria’s longtime effort to become self-sustainable.
“Under Chairman Hitchcock’s leadership, the tribe has come a long way,” he said. “I can’t think of anybody more deserving of their right to determine their own destiny than the members of the Wilton Rancheria.”
If built, the casino-resort would include a gaming floor with 2,000 slot machines, 84 gaming tables, a 12-story, 302-room hotel, a fitness area and spa, an outdoor pool, a 30,000-square-foot convention space/banquet area and fine dining restaurants.
Through memorandum of understanding agreements with the city of Elk Grove and the county of Sacramento, the Wilton Rancheria would invest more than $180 million in city and county services during the first 20 years of the project. That funding would be used to improve traffic, enhance public safety, assist schools, and expand community programs.
It is estimated that the project will create more than 1,600 construction jobs, 1,750 full-time employment positions, and 3,000 direct and indirect jobs.