Artist's rendering of the Wilton Rancheria's resort project in Elk Grove, Caifornia. Image by Wilton Rancheria

Wilton Rancheria hails action on compact for long-awaited gaming development

The Wilton Rancheria has cleared yet another hurdle in its long-awaited quest for a casino in California.

A bill that ratifies the tribe's Class III gaming compact was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Tuesday. With action on the state level complete, the agreement can be sent to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for review.

“The governor’s signature represents the culmination of so much hard work over the past several years,” Chairman Raymond C. Hitchcock said after Assembly Bill 1606 became law.

Now that the compact is on its way to the BIA, Hitchcock said the tribe hopes to break ground on the casino next summer. Construction could be completed within 18 to 24 months under a "best case scenario," he said.

That would put an opening close to the 10th anniversary of a major milestone. In 2009, the tribe was restored to federal recognition after a settlement with the BIA corrected a past injustice -- termination of its federal status in the 1950s.

The tribe has since spent much of the last four years going through the land-into-trust process for the casino, to be located in the city of Elk Grove. Success came when the BIA placed the 36-acre site in trust in February after a record of decision was issued on January 19, the last full day of the Obama administration.

"We thank the businesses, labor leaders, local government officials and, most important, the many members of the community who voiced strong support for the compact," Hitchcock said. "Now, we will focus on resort project planning and development."

Opponents are still hoping they can derail the project with a lawsuit in federal court. The tribe and the federal government filed answers to the complaint on Friday, denying many of its allegations.

The plaintiffs, which include a secretive group known as Stand Up For California, followed up by filing a motion for summary judgment on Sunday. They are asking a judge to declare that the 36-acre casino site was not placed in trust because they say the January 19 decision was not signed by the proper official at the BIA.

Federal Register Notices:
Final Environmental Impact Statement and a Revised Draft Conformity Determination for the Proposed Wilton Rancheria Fee-to-Trust and Casino Project, Sacramento County, California (December 14, 2016)
Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Wilton Rancheria Fee-to-Trust and Casino Project, Sacramento County, California (December 29, 2015)
Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Wilton Rancheria Fee-to-Trust and Casino Project, Sacramento County, California (December 4, 2013)

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