After years of having of fighting to open a casino in Elk Grove, California, the Wilton Rancheria tribe is finally breaking ground on the new venue, starting with the demolition of the deserted mall that sits on the property—a sign of erasing the dilapidated past in favor of a bright future. By the time the demolition and construction are complete, Elk Grove will be home to a new, $400-million casino.
The Wilton Rancheria people purchased the property in 2016, most likely not expecting to find a lot of resistance in the acquisition of an abandoned property. It had just completed the ratification of a new gaming compact with then-governor Jerry Brown and the cards were falling in their favor. Then, the legal challenges began.
Local residents, along with a group called Stand Up for California (SUFC), sued for various reasons, most notably because they believed the tribe’s application procedure for the casino violated the Indian Reorganization Act, as well as the National Environmental Policy Act. They also argued that the procedure was against California’s Public Records Act and the Ralph M. Brown Act.
Last year, a federal judge ruled in favor of the Wilton Rancheria people and then ruled in their favor again last month. The SUFC had tried to appeal the previous decision in an effort to prevent the casino from being built, but their attempts fell flat.
Now, the tribe can finally get to work and realize their dream. The new venue will offer 110,000 square feet of gaming space, a hotel tower with 302 keys, several restaurants and a spa. It will be the closest casino to, and also home of the largest convention space outside of, downtown Sacramento.
According to Raymond Hitchcock, chairman of Wilton Rancheria, this is a “new chapter” for the tribe. It also represents a “brighter future for our tribal citizens the people of Elk Grove and the greater Sacramento region.”
The casino operations will be managed through a partnership between the tribe and Boyd Gaming, with Boyd taking the lead. That partnership was approved by the California State Assembly and California State Senate in 2017 when both chambers unanimously approved the Wilton Rancheria gaming compact. Boyd President and CEO Keith Smith said at the time, “We congratulate the Wilton Rancheria for reaching this critical milestone in the tribe’s progress toward self-sufficiency. We look forward to working with them in the years ahead as we help make their vision of a world-class gaming resort a reality.”