Boyd Gaming Buys Abandoned Mall Land Advancing Wilton Rancheria Sacramento Casino Project

Posted on: December 8, 2020, 09:33h. 

Last updated on: December 8, 2020, 12:43h.

A unit of Boyd Gaming now owns 64 acres of land in Elk Grove, Calif. that will eventually be the site of Wilton Rancheria’s first tribal gaming property.

Boyd Elk Grove
The abandoned mall site in Elk Grove, Calif, seen here. Boyd Gaming bought the land, advancing a casino project with Wilton Rancheria. (Image: Sacramento Bee)

Boyd Elk Grove LLC acquired the so-called “ghost mall” land from Texas-based real estate firm Howard Hughes Development for an undisclosed sum on Monday, according to local officials.

The transaction is the final nail in the coffin for hopes that the land would eventually be turned into a high-end shopping and entertainment destination. Howard Hughes long owned the land, but the global financial crisis crimped development efforts in Elk Grove. The city is the second-largest city in Sacramento County.

This sale offers a fresh start and a new opportunity to develop something with a group who shares the city’s vision for the site and its potential as a regional destination,” said Elk Grove City Manager Jason Behrmann in a statement.

Wilton Rancheria owns 36 acres of land next to the 64-acre parcel Boyd purchased. Wilton Rancheria is a Northern California Native American group with about 700 members. The tribe procured that land in 2017 for $36 million and is partnering with Boyd on a casino-resort project that will cost an estimated $400 million. It would be the gaming venue closest to the capital city of Sacramento.

Opening Will Take Some Time

Although Wilton Rancheria acquired the aforementioned 36-acre plot several years ago under the auspices of opening a gaming venue, it wasn’t until January 2019 that the US Department of the Interior approved the tribe’s gaming accord with the state.

The group was hoping to open the casino at some point in 2020. But earlier this year, Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond Hitchcock said it would be late 2021 before the venue opens, owing to some design delays. Those comments were made in January, prior to the coronavirus pandemic rattling the gaming industry. The tribe hasn’t mentioned COVID-19 as a reason for delays.

However, Boyd Gaming CEO Keith Smith said in October that the venue is slated to come online in late 2022. It will be located off Grant Line Road in Elk Grove.

It’s not unusual for California tribal gaming entities to partner with commercial peers. For example, Caesars’ Harrah’s brand is applied to two Golden State casinos, while Red Rock Resorts is working with the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians to bring a gaming venue to Madera County.

Plenty of Competition

The Sacramento region is home to a growing number of tribal casinos, including the Hard Rock at Fire Mountain in Yuba County. Harrah’s Northern California and Jackson Rancheria are in nearby Amador County and the Red Hawk Casino located in El Dorado County.

Butte, Colusa, Placer, and Yolusa counties are all homes to tribal gaming properties, too. While that means plenty of competition for Wilton Rancheria, it doesn’t mean the tribe’s project with Boyd won’t be successful.

The parties have some advantages, including Elk Grove’s proximity to Sacramento, a 22-minute drive. As well as the city’s status as the 27th-largest in California, with a population of roughly 177,000.