Wilton Rancheria holds groundbreaking ceremony for Elk Grove gambling casino, unveils facility name

Today the Wilton Rancheria held a groundbreaking ceremony for their gambling casino to be located on the far southern city limits of Elk Grove.  

The formal name of the facility, Sky River, was also revealed during this morning's ceremony. 

Among local officials attending the ceremony were California Assemblymembers Jim Cooper (D - Elk Grove) and James Ramos (D- Rancho Cucamonga), Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli, and Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen. Also appearing via Zoom was former California governor Jerry Brown, and a video message from current Governor Gavin Newsom was presented.

The casino will be built on a portion of the now-demolished Outlet At Elk Grove shopping center, formerly owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation. After the unfinished mall sat idle for over eight years, a portion of the parcel was purchased for the Wilton Rancheria by Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming.

Appear on behalf of Boyd Gaming, who is said to be financing the reported 400-room, $500 million venture, was their Chief Executive Officer, Keith Smith. In comments perhaps aimed at Elk Grove residents who opposed the casino, Smith said Boyd Gaming acts as responsible neighbors. 

"One of our core values as a company is a commitment to the communities where we operate," Smith stated. "You can rest assured that we are bringing this commitment to Elk Grove, that this community will be proud Boyd Gaming is part of their community."

After the plans were revealed to Elk Grove residents in 2016 by former Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis, opposition quickly arose. As part of that opposition, a lawsuit was filed against the process where the land of the former unfinished mall was placed into federal trust, one of the requirements need for an Indian casino on land outside traditional tribal jurisdiction.  

That lawsuit was filed by the casino watchdog group Stand Up For California and challenged the placement process in the waning hours of the Obama administration in January 2017 under the Federal Vacancy Reform Act of 1998. That litigation is still pending in the Federal Appeals Court in the District of Columbia. 

Smith also said because of the gaming facilities location near Sacramento and its proximity to the South Bay portion of the Bay Area it will "become the premier gaming experience in Northern California" and "will become one of the most popular and successful casinos in the entire state."

The speakers spoke in generalizations of the project, with very few specifics being provided. It was noted there would be 1,500 workers employed in the construction of the facility and 2,000 workers employed in the facility upon opening, but specifics about the actual size and cost of the resort were not provided.

Speaking on behalf of the Wilton Rancheria, Tribal Chairman Jesus Terrano said the day's events were the culmination of a years-long process for the tribe to reclaim federal recognition and provide services for tribal members.  

"When it opens in the second half of 2022, the Wilton Rancheria's casino project will provide resources to invest in housing, education, and healthcare for our 853 tribal members, to preserve our language, our culture, and our community, and also give us a chance to give back to our community," he said.  

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