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Elk Grove Citizen

Rancheria to Expand Casino

Jun 13, 2024 11:22AM ● By Matthew Malone

Wilton Rancheria Chair Jesus Tarango holds an eagle during an event announcing the expansion of the tribe’s Sky River Casino. Photo by Matthew Malone

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ELK GROVE, CA (MPG) - Wilton Rancheria announced on June 7 that it is expanding its Sky River Casino, with planned additions over the next three years including a hotel, an expanded gaming floor, and a pool and spa.
The expansion is divided into two phases. Phase 1 will bring a multistory, 1,600-space parking garage to the south Elk Grove site, along with a revamped valet service area and entryway. Phase 2 will include a 300-room hotel, 400 additional slot machines, an outdoor pool and a day spa, as well as event space and an additional high-limit and VIP gaming area. 
The first phase is planned to complete construction by summer 2025 and the second phase by early 2027.
The rancheria and the casino operator, Boyd Gaming, made the announcement at an event that recalled efforts to gain federal recognition and framed Sky River within the tribe’s work to maintain its culture. The announcement took place less than a week before the 15th anniversary of Wilton Rancheria’s restoration of federal recognition on June 13, 2009.
During the event, tribal officials placed rancheria flags in planters of earth, which Tribal Chair Jesus Tarango said “signifies our presence, our commitment and resiliency to ourselves and our community.”
“This expansion is not just about growing our facilities; it’s about expanding our horizons. We are laying the foundation for a future filled with new possibilities for Wilton Rancheria and the entire region,” Tarango said. 
He later added, “Today represents our commitment to reestablishing our cultural heritage and leaving a legacy of opportunity and prosperity for future generations.”
In a speech, Sky River President Michael Facenda said the new slot machines would give Sky River a total of 1,500 slots. He said the hotel, planned for the north side of the existing building, would feature a restaurant, retail and a lobby bar. He said construction would not disrupt the experience of guests inside the casino building.
Sacramento County Sheriff Jim Cooper praised the rancheria’s dedication to helping tribe members, and Sacramento County Supervisor Pat Hume highlighted the “magnanimity” of the tribe as it sought recognition.
Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen acknowledged the importance of federal recognition for Wilton Rancheria’s sovereignty.
“My friends, you have always been sovereign; this is your land. You need no special piece of paper to recognize your self-worth,” Singh-Allen said. 
She cited the land acknowledgment adopted last year by the city of Elk Grove, which recognizes the Plains Miwok, and Wilton Rancheria specifically, as “sovereign caretakers of this land and these waterways since time immemorial.”
As the event drew to a close, Tarango came onstage with an eagle perched on his arm, a reference to the eagle on the rancheria’s seal.
“The eagle takes everything that we do down here and takes it directly up to the creator,” tribal Vice-Chair Raquel Williams said, asking the audience to give the eagle messages to carry. “So with the eagle, it signifies strength. With the eagle, it signifies beauty. And for the eagle here at Wilton Rancheria, it signifies our resilience and our resistance.”
Speaking to the Citizen after the event, Tarango said he felt a mixture of sadness and happiness: “the sadness obviously because you’re celebrating without people that are no longer with you. The happiness comes from those that are coming to us and we just don’t know but we’re doing something good for them.”
Tarango said Sky River is the tribe’s “economic driver” that will allow the tribe to educate members about their culture.
Asked what message he would have the eagle carry, Tarango emphasized that the tribe is listening to its forebears.
“I would want the eagle to carry to our ancestors, letting them know that we remember where we come from. We hear you. We see you. We’ll never forget you,” Tarango said. “Because we need them.”