Artist's rendering of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tejon near Bakersfield, California. Image: Tejon Tribe/Hard Rock International

Tejon Tribe wins approval for intergovernmental agreement with county

The future continues to look bright for the Tejon Tribe, just a few years after being restored to federal recognition.

The board of supervisors in Kern County voted unanimously on July 23 to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the tribe. The $218 million deal runs for 20 years and addresses impacts from the tribe's proposed $600 million gaming development.

“This is a truly historic day for the Tejon people,” Chairman Octavio Escobedo said at the board meeting, The Bakersfield Californian reported. “Everyone shares a vision of homeownership. This is our vision for a homeland.”

The Tejon Indian Tribe and Hard Rock International would like to thank the community for the overwhelming support we’ve...

Posted by Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tejon on Tuesday, July 30, 2019

To move forward with the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tejon, the tribe needs to see action on the federal level. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is in the early stages of evaluating the environmental impact statement for the project but there's no timeline for a decision.

The tribe has partnered with Hard Rock International, one of the most prominent names in the gaming, entertainment and hospitality industry. They are planning a 165,500-square-foot casino with a 400-room hotel and a 22-acre RV park on a 306-acre site near Bakersfield.

The BIA must approve the tribe's land-into-trust application before the casino can open. Additionally, the National Indian Gaming Commission may need to review any agreements between the tribe and Hard Rock.

Finally, in order to offer slot machines, table games and related games, the tribe would have to negotiate a Class III gaming compact with the state of California. It could take a few more years before all the pieces come together.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, generally, prohibits casinos on land acquired in trust after 1988. But Section 20 of the law contains an exception for tribes that were restored to federal recognition.

The BIA placed the Tejon Tribe back on the list of federally recognized entities in January 2012.

The scoping report for the project anticipates two potential avenues for the tribe. The BIA could place the 306-acre site in trust, presumably under the Section 20 exception.

Alternatively, the tribe can go through the two-part determination process of IGRA, according to the scoping report. Approval from the state governor, in addition to the BIA, would be required.

Read More on the Story
Hard Rock casino could ease county's water worries, officials say (The Bakersfield Californian August 6, 2019)
Casino mania sweeps Kern County (The Mountain Enterprise July 26, 2019)
A solitary voice in the storm (The Mountain Enterprise July 26, 2019)
Tejon Tribe casino receives boost from Board of Supervisors (The Bakersfield Californian July 23, 2019)
Kern County agrees to $218mil pact for Tejon Hard Rock Casino (The San Joaquin Valley Sun July 23, 2019)
Kern proposes $218 million, 20-year deal to service Tejon Indians' hotel-casino south of Bakersfield (The Bakersfield Californian July 18, 2019)
County proposes agreement with Tejon Indians worth nearly $220 million to provide services for planned hotel and casino complex (KGET July 18, 2019)
Kern County to propose $220 million agreement with Tejon Indian Tribe for hotel, casino (Turn to 23 July 18, 2019)

An Opinion
Editorial: Hard Rock Hotel Casino could benefit tribe, Kern (The Bakersfield Californian July 27, 2019)

Federal Register Notice
Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Tejon Indian Tribe's Proposed Trust Acquisition and Casino Project, Kern County, California (August 13, 2015)

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