Wilton Rancheria Tribe Scores Big Legal Victory in Elk Grove, California Casino Effort

Posted on: October 9, 2019, 11:30h. 

Last updated on: October 9, 2019, 12:58h.

California’s Wilton Rancheria Tribe has landed an important legal victory in its effort to build a casino in Elk Grove, Calif. US District Court Trevor McFadden earlier this week threw out a motion opposing the project brought by Stand Up For California.

A federal judge sided with the Wilton Rancheria tribe in its bid to build a Northern California casino. (Image: Elk Grove Citizen)

Stand Up For California “is a statewide organization with a focus on gambling issues affecting California, including tribal gaming, card clubs, horse racing, charitable gaming, and the lottery,” according to the group’s web site.

The organization filed a suit to block development of the Wilton Rancheria casino effort in 2017. Lower courts have previously dismissed several of the organization’s arguments, with McFadden dismissing the rest of the claims.

Those included the activist group’s assertion that the land Wilton Rancheria wants to develop into a gaming venue isn’t considered tribal land, and that the tribe’s pitch didn’t go through a standard environmental review and public comment period. Stand Up for California also challenged Wilton Rancheria’s tribal status.

We are gratified by the judge’s ruling to decisively reject dishonest arguments put forth by well-funded special interest groups that have tried at every turn to stop our project,” said Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond Hitchcock.

The tribe is partnering with Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming on the project.

What’s Next

Stand Up said it’s considering its next steps. But for now, it appears as though the tribe can move forward with plans to start construction on the casino, which will be located along Highway 99 in Elk Grove. In 2017, the tribe and Boyd Gaming acquired a 36-acre parcel of land for $36 million from Howard Hughes Corp.

The property, located in the south end of Elk Grove, was originally slated to be a mall. Demolition of the parts of the shopping venue that were constructed started earlier this year.

Wilton Rancheria, which expects construction of the gaming property to cost $500 million, said that in addition to a casino, the venue will include a hotel, restaurants and a spa. The gaming area is expected to occupy 2.3 percent of the site, according to a presentation by Boyd and the tribe.

“Wilton Rancheria has agreed to invest $186 million in the first 20 years of the project with the City of Elk Grove and Sacramento County to support police, schools, roads and other service,” according to the tribe.

Details, Benefits

There are over 60 tribal gaming venues in the Golden State, which generate about $8 billion a year, on average, or approximately a quarter of total revenue at all US tribal casinos.

Boyd and Wilton Rancheria have not released specifications for how many slot machines and table games will be featured at the Elk Grove casino. Pechanga, a tribal gaming venue located in Southern California and one of the largest casinos in the US, has 5,000 slot machines and 130 table games.

The tribe estimates that the Elk Grove project will create 1,600 construction jobs and 1,750 permanent roles, along with another 3,000 direct and indirect positions.