Wilton Rancheria announces March 9 groundbreaking on Elk Grove casino, but litigation persists

One of several renderings for the Wilton Rancheria casino proposed for Elk Grove. |  With the words that "Today we celebrate the hard-f...

One of several renderings for the Wilton Rancheria casino proposed for Elk Grove. | 

With the words that "Today we celebrate the hard-fought determination of generations of Tribal members to create a future of dignity and self-sufficiency for Wilton Rancheria," Wilton Tribal Chair Jesus Tarango announced in a press release issued today the ground-breaking of their Elk Grove casino.

The casino, located on a portion of the formerly abandoned now demolished shopping center site on Elk Grove's southside, was first revealed to the public by former Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis in July 2016. Casino operations and financing for the structure will be provided by Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming.

The press release did not specify what portion of the facility will open first. Previously it was announced the facility would cost about $500 million and include a 400-room resort. 

The announcement said the facility will include 2,000 slot machines and 80 gaming tables. Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen confirmed she will be in attendance for March 9 ceremony.   

"After years of planning, our focus will now turn to bringing the tribe's vision for this project to life," Keith Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer of Boyd Gaming, said in the statement. "We look forward to a 2022 opening and providing our partners the opportunity to finally achieve their long-standing vision of self-sufficiency." 

The City of Elk Grove, which has supported the project as an economic development engine, has not issued a statement on next week's ceremony or the press release from Wilton Rancheria and Boyd Gaming. As part of the agreement to permit the casino, Elk Grove agreed to receive about $120 million over 30 years to mitigate the effects on municipal services like law enforcement. 

Although the groundbreaking is next week, the legitimacy of the actions placing the land into federal trust on non-reservation land is still under litigation. The federal lawsuit was reviewed late last year by The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Filed by the casino watchdog group Stand Up For California, the lawsuit has challenged the timing of placement of the land into federal trust during the final hours of the Obama administration in 2017. SUFC said the placement violated the Federal Vacancy Reform Act of 1998. 

Although the appeal was heard on November 8 by a three-judge panel, and no decision was issued, one of the three justices hearing the matter was Merrick Garland. Since then, Garland was nominated for U.S. Attorney General by President Joseph Biden, which may require another hearing. 

SUFC's director Cherly Schmitt did not immediately respond to an email request to comment on the groundbreaking announcement or the litigation. Boyd Gaming and Wilton Rancheria did not cite the ongoing litigation in the press release.   

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Randy Bekker said...

It should be noted that Stand up California has lost every court case filed an at one point the judge ruled they had no standing. The land was purchased in a private sell not given to the tribe by the federal government. So the lawsuit over the land to trust is mute as the courts continue to rule in the favor of the Wilton Rancheria.

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