Casino groundbreaking

An illustration of the Wilton Rancheria's casino-resort project. 

A groundbreaking ceremony will be held for the Wilton Rancheria’s Elk Grove casino-resort near Kammerer Road and Highway 99 on March 9.

This casino is currently scheduled to open in late 2022 and the complex will be built and managed by Boyd Gaming.

Upon its opening, the 35.9-acre project will include as many as 2,000 slot machines, more than 80 gaming tables, and food and beverage offerings. Wilton Rancheria’s then-chair Raymond “Chuckie” Hitchcock told the Citizen last year that the project would cost an estimated $500 million.

The groundbreaking event, which will begin at 11 a.m., marks the culmination of the tribe’s longtime strive for self-efficiency, noted Wilton Rancheria Tribal Chair Jesus Tarango in a press statement on March 2.

“Today, we celebrate the hard-fought determination of generations of tribal members to create a future of dignity and self-sufficiency for Wilton Rancheria,” he wrote. “This will be a transformative project that will provide resources to invest in housing, education and health care for our more than 800 members, to preserve our language and culture, and to give back to the community for decades to come.”

Boyd Gaming President/CEO Keith Smith referred to Boyd’s desire to move the project forward and help Wilton Rancheria fulfill its dream of operating its own casino.

“After years of planning, our focus will now turn to bringing the tribe’s vision for this project to life,” he wrote in the press statement. “We look forward to a 2022 opening and providing our partners the opportunity to finally achieve their long-standing vision of self-sufficiency.”

The project was designed by the Friedmutter Group, Tandem Design and Dez Motif. Construction will be led by general contractors, AECOM Tishman and Yates Construction.

During their efforts to have their casino built, Wilton Rancheria faced various legal challenges from the Penryn-based Stand Up for California!, a watchdog group that focuses on gambling issues.

In one instance, the watchdog group challenged the U.S. Department of the Interior’s authority and decision to place Wilton Rancheria’s tribal land in Elk Grove into federal trust. The Department of the Interior took the land into federal trust in 2017.

In presenting his decision on that matter on Oct. 7, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden ruled that the land acquisition was properly handled.

The tribe’s casino project also experienced construction delays. Hitchcock told the Citizen in January 2020 that the tribe projected that their casino-resort would open in late 2021.

Last May, Hitchcock mentioned that the project’s scheduled groundbreaking for that month would not occur due to impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This pandemic really took everybody by surprise and put the whole credit market in a freeze right now, and we don’t know how long it will take to thaw out,” he said at that time.

The tribe has since secured full funding for its project through an unidentified third party.