Federal Court Win Boosts California Tribal Casino Proposal

Federal Court Win Boosts California Tribal Casino Proposal
By Daniel Bettridge

A vital federal court victory this week for the Wilton Rancheria tribe in California saw the development of a new half-billion-dollar, 36-acre casino move a step closer.

Judge Trevor N. McFadden, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, threw out a motion by the casino’s opponents, Stand Up for California, on Monday. The decision paves the way for the tribe to proceed with development in the town of Elk Grove, just outside of Sacramento.

California Casino’s Long Road

“It’s a pretty huge step,” Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond Hitchcock said, according to a report by the Sacramento Bee. “We’ve been dealing with this litigation for three years.”

The next step for the group will be to break ground on construction of the site. But with winter around the corner, that might have to wait.

“We will continue to move ahead with our plans to build the resort and casino,” Hitchcock added.

The Wilton Rancheria tribes plans to build the resort along a 35.9-acre parcel along Highway 99 and Kammerer Road in Elk Grove. According to plans released online by Wilton Rancheria, the proposed resort will include a hotel, multiple restaurants and a spa with construction estimated to cost around $500 million. The target time frames is for the project to take 18 months to complete.

The project also looks set to be a boon for California’s capital area, benefiting the local economy as well as creating 1,600 construction jobs, 1,750 full-time employee positions and 3,000 direct and indirect jobs.

According to reports, Wilton Rancheria has also pledged to invest $186 million of revenues with Elk Grove and Sacramento County over the first 20 years of the project. That money has been earmarked for vital services including roads, police, schools and other services. In the 2018 fiscal year, tribal casinos nationwide brought in a record $33.7 billion in revenue, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Casino Opposition Group Defeated

The court ruling saw the casino group finally overcome the opposition of Stand Up for California, an anti-gambling group that sprung up to battle the development.

According to the Sacramento Business Journal, Stand Up’s opposition dates back to 2017. However, courts at various levels have continually thrown out many of the group’s arguments against the casino.

Judge McFadden this week discounted the final opposition claim, which challenged Wilton Rancheria’s status as a recognized tribe. They also argued that the land designated for the casino was not “Indian Land” and that proper environmental considerations had not been undertaken.

“We are gratified by the judge’s ruling to decisively reject dishonest arguments put forth by well-funded special interest groups that have tried at every turn to stop our project,” Hitchcock said of the D.C. court’s decision.

Stand Up has claimed it is disappointed by the ruling and considering further steps. But it would appear that, for now at least, the delays are over.

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Daniel Bettridge has written on everything from pop culture to pro sports for publications such as The Guardian, The Times, The Atlantic and MSN. He is also a gambling enthusiast and author of three books.

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