As Sky River casino construction commences, Wilton Rancheria scores appellate legal victory

Rendering of Elk Grove's Sky River casino's west entrance. |  

Following last month's groundbreaking on their Sky River casino in Elk Grove, the Wilton Rancheria still had pending litigation in the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Late last week, the cloud of that litigation disappearing for the Wilton Rancheria as a ruling was issued in their favor. 

In a ruling issued on Friday, April 16, the three-judge panel upheld a lower court decision (see below) that dismissed a challenge to the process of placing the 36-acre site of the casino into federal trust. Putting the land into federal trust is required to designate non-tribal property to be used for gaming purposes.  

“Time after time courts have rejected these desperate and baseless attempts to stop our project,” Wilton Rancheria Tribal Chairman Jesus Tarango said. “We had to fight for federal recognition. We had to fight for our land. And now, thanks to the U.S Court of Appeals, we’ve taken another major step toward our goal of self-sufficiency.”

The lawsuit was brought by the casino watchdog group Stand Up For California, who argued the Elk Grove parcel was improperly placed into federal trust in the final hours of the Obama administration. Among other things, SUFC argued the process violated the Federal Vacancy Reform Act of 1998. 

SUFC executive director Cheryl Schmitt did not respond to an email request seeking comment or if they would pursue further legal action. The decision can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but they are under no obligation to hear the matter. 

Originally proposed as a $500 million casino resort financing and managed by Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming, the initial phase will not include the planned hotel. When fully operational as a casino resort, Sky River is expected to employ 2,000.  

With its planned opening late next year, Sky River will be the first tribal casino in Sacramento County and will have a strategic advantage in an increasingly competitive market. Within an hour's drive of Sky River are the Red Hawk, Thunder Valley, Jackson Rancheria, Hard Rock Cafe, Harrahs, and Cache Creek casinos that currently lure Elk Grove gamblers and their dollars. 

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Randy Bekker said...

SUFC seems to have reached a dead end after losing every court battle against Wilton Rancheria Tribe. You wonder who is behind this group? You wonder where all the money to fund this group came from? You wonder why other Indian Casino’s found their way to build their Casino projects without SUFC being a roadblock but Wilton Rancheria seem to be their target. Why is that? From all accounts the Sky River Casino offered jobs, economic increase to the local economy an the city bank account through an MOU plus adult entertainment that is missing in our growing city an surrounding communities. I know for some in our community they are not celebrating this decision but progress must move forward an a lot of things over the last 40 years have changed. I look forward to the grand opening of Sky River Casino an I am very happy for Wilton Rancheria Tribe.

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