Anti-Casino Foes Gather Signatures in Hopes of Halting Proposed Elk Grove, Wilton Rancheria Casino

November 13, 2016 |

The battle over the Wilton Rancheria casino resort proposed in Elk Grove took on another dimension in recent days. Opponents of the $400-million project are seekings signature to put a referendum on a ballot to reverse a recent decision by the Elk Grove City Council that helps pave the way for the casino.

The petitions seek to reverse a decision by the Elk Grove City Council to release the owner of the site for the proposed casino from a previous development agreement. By releasing the Howard Hughes Corporation from the contract, they can sell about 36-acres of their site that include the unfinished Outlet Collection at Elk Grove to the Wilton Rancheria.

Even though the Elk Grove City Council has no jurisdiction regarding the location of an Indian casino, before any non-tribal land is put into Federal trust for the tribe, it must be unencumbered. The vote by the Elk Grove City Council to release Howard Hughes from the development agreement freed the parcel to be put into the trust.

Over that last several days, signature gatherers have been working in front of several retail stores in Elk Grove including Target on Laguna Boulevard and Winco on Sheldon Road. This morning a signature gatherer who asked not to be identified in front of Winco acknowledged that he and others working on the petitions were paid employees and that they have gathered 4,000 signatures since starting five days ago.

"If they say they aren't paid, they are lying, " he said.

When asked who was sponsoring the petition, the gatherer said he did not know but suspected it was a competing Indian casino. Among the several gaming facilities in the region include Thunder Valley in Roseville and Red Hawk in eastern El Dorado County, whose casino are thought to be the largest nearby venues. 

While gatherers also worked the Target store this morning, they had competition from an adjacent sign waver urging people not to sign the petitions. That sign said it was sponsored by Region Business, a Sacramento business advocacy firm that supports of the casino.

Region Business Executive Director Joshua Wood said he was disappointed to hear of the petitions drive as it could impede progress on the $400-million project. Wood and other proponents of the project said the casino would be a shot-in-the-arm for construction jobs, the casino will be a significant long-term employer in Elk Grove, and that it would jump start completion of the long-stalled Outlet Collection at Elk Grove shopping center.

"They are not honest about what the petition is, it will hurt the mall [Outlet Collection], Wood said. "They won't admit it."

Wood also claimed at one point on Saturday one of the signature gatherers, several of whom were brought in from out-of-state, stole their signs and threw them on Laguna Boulevard. Wood said he not aware of who or what group is seeking to put a referendum on a ballot asking to reverse the abandonment of the development agreement

"They are basically trying to kill the mall in this attempt to kill another project," he added.

The petition gatherers are employed by Discovery Petition Management of Sacramento. A representative of that company said they are subcontracted by Arno Petition Services. Calls placed to Arno had not been returned seeking comment on the petition or who their client is as of posting timing of this story.

Raymond Hitchcock, Chairman of the Wilton Rancheria, said he was disappointed to hear of the petition drive and that those efforts could hurt getting construction restarted of the Outlet Collection shopping center.

"Like the rest of the community, we want to see the mall built. And we believe the Wilton Rancheria project, by creating jobs and economic growth, will serve as a catalyst for the mall’s success," Hitchcock said. " We appreciate that Region Business and so many other members of our community understand the importance of the Outlet Collection mall and are committed to seeing it move forward to completion.”


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