With Wilton Rancheria’s Casino Land in Federal Trust, Will Elk Grove’s Supposed ‘Bedford Falls’ Give Way to ‘Pottersville’

February 14, 2017 |    At a highly anticipated news conference today, Wilton Rancheria Tribal Chairman Raymond “Chuckie” Hitc...

February 14, 2017 |   

At a highly anticipated news conference today, Wilton Rancheria Tribal Chairman Raymond “Chuckie” Hitchcock announced that Yes! - the 36-acre parcel it recently purchased from the Howard Hughes Company at its unfinished shopping center has gone into federal trust. With this development he told the audience of tribal members and media that at some point in the next few years, the landless Tribe will have a home that it can call its own, or at least land that it can, with the help of the deep pockets of Boyd Gaming, erect its $400 million resort casino upon.

After several months of punches and counter punches from the supporters and opponents of the project, the proposed 12-story casino resort is moving closer to fruition. Notwithstanding further litigation, the only thing left is for the California State Senate and Assembly to approve by a supermajority a gaming pact and move it on to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature. 

While there are probably a few more chapters still to be written in this controversy beyond the state gaming pact, over the last several months, I could not help but think of Frank Capra’s classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life as it relates to how this could affect Elk Grove.

For those not familiar with this Christmas classic, the suicidal protagonist George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, is given the opportunity to see what his life, as well as his bucolic hometown of Bedford Falls, would be like had he not been born. 

In Bailey’s journey, Bedford Falls, which he felt was more like an albatross around his neck instead of the wholesome, family-oriented city as portrayed in the movie, had become Pottersville. Named after the soulless banker Mr. Potter who controlled the city, the sleepy hamlet had transformed into a bawdy party town. 

Listening to opponents of the Elk Grove casino, and more so a whole host of other people speaking on different topics through the years at city council meetings, you might get the impression that Elk Grove is a clone of Bedford Falls. You know, the small, friendly, family-centric city where everyone is polite and no conflicts arise.
Maybe Elk Grove was that way 50 or 60 years ago, but in my 23-plus years of living here, that just has not been the case. Over 20 years ago our population stood at about 30,000 and in that short time have become a large milquetoast suburban bedroom city quickly approaching a population of 200,000 devoid of any cultural amenities, filled with strip centers of nail salons and smoke shops, cops repeatedly responding to domestic violence calls and kids just itching for something to do. 

Like many people who located to Elk Grove, my family’s decision was based on a couple of factors, and it wasn’t the supposed small town charm so many people claim that we possess. Specifically, it included a.) it’s proximity to jobs in Downtown Sacramento, b.) relative affordability, C.) decent schools and d.) since about 2006 anyhow, safety.

This is not to say that Elk Grove is a bad place, it just is not anything like its most fervent supporters will have you believe. Which is to say Elk Grove isn’t that simple little town of Bedford Falls where everybody knows one another much less Lake Woebegone where “all the kids are above average” or Mayberry where the biggest threat to the city is a bender from Otis the town drunk.

As for Bailey’s journey, when he sees how Bedford Falls became Pottersville, a town filled with dance halls, bars, public drunkenness, street fights, pawn shops, all night movie shows, with a few prostitutes thrown in for good measure, he is aghast. For a particular segment of casino opponents, this is what they might envision for Elk Grove. 

Conversely, casino proponents have attempted to downplay the negative societal effects of gambling by noting only a sliver of the total floor space is for gaming. Just keep in mind gambling enterprises don’t build these massive resort structures solely by giving away stiff drinks and serving economy-priced starch laden buffets. They are made to separate patrons from as much of their money as possible.
Furthermore, proponents have tried to reframe gambling and all its negative connotations to just another form of entertainment not unlike attending a ball game or symphony concert. While it could be just another form of entertainment, it is unlikely one could lose all their savings, house, and family by attending too many symphony concerts. 
Even young adults understand many casino patrons are going there for something more than merely entertainment purposes. As one young adult observed, “The gang bangers from South Sac and [Elk Grove’s] East Franklin will be all over it, and it won't be to play Bingo.”

On the bright side, those who come to the casino with bad intentions will probably confine most of their activities to the area immediately surrounding the casino or a few neighboring hotels. Sure, riding on the coattails of the casino will be the accompanying prostitution, illegal drug use, con artist, flim-flam men, debt enforcers and other assorted hustlers working the crowd at the casino, but they are probably confining their activities to that 36-acre parcel.
It is unlikely prostitutes will work the Chicago Fire or BJ’s on Laguna Boulevard for tricks. Why go there when there are better and easier pickings at a 24-hour, 365-days-a-year casino ripe for the picking.

Besides, why can’t Elk Grove have a little corner of Pottersville to kick loose? We have never been Bedford Falls or Mayberry by any stretch of the imagination, so why not let it hang loose, have some fun and not pretend to be something we have never been. If you feel crummy about what you did on Saturday night, all can be forgiven when you go to Sunday morning church.

As one writer several years ago noted when comparing the pulsating Potterville to dull, restricting Bedford Falls, “Pottersville Rocks!”

Once we get past the notion that the Elk Grove of 50 years ago is never coming back if it even ever existed, would it harm Elk Grove to become a little like Potterville?

After all, it is just an adult “entertainment” venue tucked away in one little self-contained sovereign nation corner of the Elk Grove.  How much harm can it do?  

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Unknown said...

All I want is the mall. Sucks how we basically won't get the mall without the Casino.

Unknown said...

All I want is the Mall. Sucks how we can't get the Mall without the Casino.

Unknown said...

Bunch of BS is spewing from the opponents of the project. Submit you names to the Casino Operations and thereafter be banned from entry to the Casino. NO such problems have appeared at Red Hawk, Thunder Valley, Jackson Rancheria etc. Speaking of not appearing, documentation with verifiable facts ( maybe alternative facts ) have been presented anytime since the project was announced. Even in Galt.

D.J. Blutarsky said...

When the smoke clears and the out of town petition money moves on to the next battleground, this City Council has to understand that this casino issue has awoken the "sleeping giants". No matter how you cut the deck, 14,000 registered voters "voted" to kill the casino and this Council is best advised to not forget that.

Since incorporation in 2000, the city, it's elected/appointed council members, and the prevailing out of town money-the development lobby, have thrived and profited by making major (and expensive) policy decisions under the radar while the taxpaying giants were in a deep slumber. Thanks to the casino issue, the deep polarization of the community is now evident for all to see. The only questions I have now are:

(1) Will this deep polarization result in the ousting of Council members by recall or have their ego gravy train pulled out at their next election?

(2) Now that the other half have awoken, will the tired promises of shopping, jobs, and train stations be enough to lull them back to sleep, or will these 14,000 irritants now bird-dog all major city issues?

(3) Will the endless cycle of Council appointees and humongous re-election warchests continue to prevail, or will these 14,000 taxpayers demand reforms that open the democratic process to others to answer their call to patriotic civic duty? Yes, Mr. Ly, a lot of people serve their country without asking to be put on the payroll.

Well, I believe my three minutes are up!

Neo Elk Grove said...

I doubt there will be any long term ramifications for council members as a result of the land being placed into trust. They will still collect their donations, public interest will quickly fade and before you know it, the casino will be open for business. The only question left is will the mall still be built.

Unknown said...

After reading this article, I think I will slit my wrists. Seriously, all is not bad. Yes, a growing community will increase some bad things in society but it also brings much more good when done correctly - and Elk Grove is doing is correctly. Along with our nail solons and strip malls, we have nice stores and restaurants (with more coming) great parks and schools, a community college, and more employment opportunities.

I do feel bad for those who wanted Elk Grove to stay small but I'm sorry, but there are more of us who want to have smart growth (which overall is what Elk Grove is doing). We want services and amenities to allow us to live our life without having to drive to downtown Sacramento, Arden, or Roseville.

Will there be more crime and prostitution with the casino? Yes, there will. However, ANY development brings an increase in overall crime. In fact, building a full mall with no casino would bring MORE crime than the casino would. The casino will actually result in a development with less crime than the mall alone.

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