Nation | Tribe: Wilton Rancheria
1 Sky River Way
Elk Grove, Sacramento County, CA 95758
Sky River Casino is a $500 million casino project in Sacramento County off Highway 99 at Grant Line Road in Elk Grove. The casino will be located 15 miles south of downtown Sacramento.
Sky River Casino will feature a 110,260 sq-ft gaming floor with 2,000 slots and 84 table games plus a 12-story hotel with 302 guest rooms, spa and fitness center and a luxury pool. Sky River will be the closest casino to Sacramento and also to the South Bay Area when it opens in late 2022.
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Sky River Casino is located in Sacramento County off Highway 99 at Grant Line Road in Elk Grove, California. The distance is 15 miles from downtown Sacramento.
In September 2016 the Elk Grove City Council approved a local agreement with the tribe. Wilton Rancheria will pay the city $132 million over 20 years to cover the financial impact of the casino on its community.
The proposed site is "off-reservation" land. The tribe opted to purchase it for a casino and applied to the U.S. Interior Department for special approval. A favorable decision was issued in January 2017 and the land was taken into federal trust.
This prompted opposition groups to appeal the legality of that decision. In July 2017 the Interior Department denied their appeal.
A week later Gov. Jerry Brown announced he had negotiated and signed a gaming compact with the tribe allowing 2,500 slot machines. The compact was then ratified by the legislature and final signoffs and approvals were announced in October 2017.
Preparation of the casino site began Feb 1, 2019 with the demolition and removal of the abandoned Elk Grove Mall. The casino site is at the north end of the mall near Kammerer Road and Highway 99.
In Jan 2020 Wilton Rancheria announced some redesigns to the project were necessary and construction would be delayed until 2021.
In Feb 2021 the tribe announced that financing had been secured and the project would proceed. A groundbreaking ceremony was held March 9, 2021. Construction will take 12-18 months to complete.
By August 2021, all foundation work, underground utilities and the steel framing were completed. A "topping off" ceremony was held August 20th to celebrate the placement of the final steel beam. See news article.
Sky River Casino is expected to open to the public in late 2022.
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110,260 sq-ft gaming floor
2,000 Slot Machines
80 Table Games
Poker Room - 12 tables
Sky River Casino will have 12 dining options including:
Marketplace - food court
30,000 total square-feet of event space
Conference center - will be one of the largest in the region
12-story hotel tower
302 guest rooms and suites
Spa and fitness center
August 28, 2021
In a news release this week Wilton Rancheria announced the final steel beam has been hoisted into place atop the Sky River Casino construction site. The event marks the completion of the structural steel framing for the future Elk Grove casino.
Wilton Rancheria, along with its partner Boyd Gaming and general contractor AECOM Tishman | Yate, held a celebration August 20th to thank all the workers, companies and subcontractors that had contributed to the work to reach this milestone.
All the foundation work and the underground utilities were completed prior to starting the steel framing. Construction will now begin the casino's exterior and interior buildout which will take about a full year. Completion is expected in the second half of 2022.
The grand opening of Sky River Casino is expected in late 2022.
August 17, 2021
Aerial footage of the Sky River Casino's construction site last week shows extensive foundation work and the initial steel framing are underway. The construction can be seen from Highway 99 in Elk Grove, California.
The groundbreaking for Sky River Casino was held March 9, 2021. Construction crews began clearing the site soon afterwards in preparation for the first stages of construction.
Full-scale construction began in late April after Wilton Rancheria won a decisive court ruling over Stand Up For California in a case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
April 24, 2021
Wilton Rancheria will proceed with building the new Sky River Casino in Elk Grove, CA after winning a major lawsuit to stop its construction. The tribe was sued by Stand Up For California, an anti-casino activist group, who claimed the tribe was wrongly granted indigenous status by the U.S. Department of Interior, and also claimed the Sky River Casino should have an environmental impact statement.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit disagreed with the arguments. The court sided with the tribe and the Interior Department on both issues.
Wilton Rancheria Tribal Chairman Jesus Tarango released a statement after the decision which included:
"Time after time, courts have rejected these desperate and baseless attempts to stop our project. 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."
Sky River Casino held a groundbreaking ceremony on March 9 and plans to open in late 2022.
March 24, 2021
Crews are clearing the building site for the new Sky River Casino and preparing it for the first stages of construction. This follows the groundbreaking ceremony held earlier this month by local officials and the Wilton Rancheria.
Sky River Casino is located 15 miles south of downtown Sacramento and will open in late 2022. The $500 million construction project included a 110,260 sq-ft casino, a 302-room hotel and a 30,000-square-foot event center.
March 9, 2021
The Wilton Rancheria celebrated the groundbreaking today for construction of a $500 million resort casino in Elk Grove near Sacramento, California. The casino name "Sky River Casino" was unveiled during the ceremony as the selected name for the Wilton Rancheria casino.
Sky River Casino will open in the second half of 2022 and feature 2,000 slot machines, 80 table games, a steakhouse, pub and a Chinese eatery. There is also plans for a hotel, spa and convention center.
March 5, 2021
Wilton Rancheria Tribe announced Tuesday that construction of their $500 million resort casino will kick off next week with a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday March 9.
Wilton Tribal Chair Jesus Tarango released the following statement:
"Today we celebrate the hard-fought determination of generations of Tribal members to create a future of dignity and self-sufficiency for Wilton Rancheria. This will be a transformative project that will provide resources to invest in housing, education, and healthcare for our more than 800 members, to preserve our language and culture, and to give back to the community for decades to come."
Construction of the Sky River Casino will be finished in late 2022.
March 1, 2021
Wilton Rancheria announced Friday that financing has been secured for the proposed Sky River Casino in Elk Grove, California. The groundbreaking date for construction will be announced soon.
Wilton Rancheria Office of the Chair and Tribal Council released a letter Friday stating:
"This historic accomplishment results from over a decade of intensive research, communication, and relationship building with the City of Elk Grove and our Development Partner, Boyd Gaming.
"As part of this financing, we are also proud to announce that a Ground-Breaking ceremony is under development and will be announced in the coming days."
December 11, 2020
Elk Grove city officials announced this week that the Howard Hughes Corporation has sold its ghost mall property near Grantline Road and Highway 99 to the casino resort developer for the Wilton Rancheria tribe.
The developer fot the Wilton Rancheria casino resort is Boyd Gaming of Las Vegas. Tribal chairman Jesus Tarrango issued this statement:
"Boyd Gaming's decision to buy this land continues to demonstrate their commitment to becoming a partner in developing Wilton Rancheria Resort and Casino."
In late 2019 construction workers began dismantling parts of the unfinished shopping mall, nicknamed the "Ghost Mall", for the site of the future Wilton Rancheria resort and casino.
January 14, 2020
The $500 million Wilton Rancheria casino resort planned for Elk Grove, California is delayed until late 2021. It was previously targeted to open in late 2020.
This week Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond "Chuckie" Hitchcock made the following announcement:
"Last year, 2019, we had to do some redesign on a few areas that set us back, and now we're getting back on track.
"As far as an update on timing, we're most likely waiting for the spring to hit, so we're not in the wet season, because we have in-ground infrastructure. And it's an 18-month construction process. So, if you do the math, that's late 2021 for opening for the project.
"The project is imminent," he said. "It's going to happen. The light is at the end of the tunnel to get started with this project. The designs are 95% to 99% done. Two areas we're just working on right now are small stuff. But the next project (is to) start digging in the ground and getting it going."
Hitchcock expects the groundbreaking for the casino will be this spring.
In the meantime there is one last legal challenge to resolve. An opposition group, Stand Up for California!, has appealed a federal court ruling regarding the U.S. Interior Department's processing of the tribe's casino application.
Stand Up's director Cheryl Schmit said, "The district court overlooked serious flaws in the (U.S. Department of Interior) public process and hasty environmental analysis, as well as a lack of proper legal authority exercised by an acting official in the waning days of the last administration."
Hitchcock believes the appeal will have no effect on the casino project schedule.
"The lawsuit has no bearing upon our ability to move forward with our project. We're just moving forward, regardless of the white noise that is the appeal from Stand Up."
"Everything we've done has been done correctly. All of the arguments made by Stand Up are baseless and conjecture. We're a tribe, we're from this area and territory. We got restored lands properly, and the decision that was made to put land into trust was done correctly. They're just looking for reasons to conflict."
December 6, 2019
Stand Up for California, an anti-casino activist group, has filed an appeal with the Bureau of Indian Affairs alleging the Wilton Rancheria's land-to-trust application was not properly approval by the U.S. Interior Department.
Although the approved application was signed by Lawrence S. Roberts, principal deputy assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, the Director of Stand Up, Cheryl Schmit, cites regulations requiring the final approval must be made by either the secretary or assistant secretary of Indian Affairs. She asserts: "A principal deputy assistant secretary lacks authority to make this decision".
Wilton Rancheria spokesman Bob Magnuson criticized the appeal as "pathetic." He said, "We know there are going to be nuisance lawsuits and that's all this is".
When Lawrence S. Roberts, principal deputy assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, signed the approval it was Jan. 19, 2017, the last day of the Obama administration.
Howard Dickstein, a Sacramento tribal-law attorney, stated "We are in somewhat uncharted waters. This is a murky situation where you have one administration walking out the door, rushing through the process of taking land into trust."
The appeal could now take months for review by the Interior Board of Indian Affairs, an appellate review body under the Secretary of the Interior.
Although the Bureau of India Affairs confirmed last week that the land transfer was completed Feb 10, 2017, it has not been confirmed by publication in the National Register.
Katherine Florey, a professor at the UC Davis School of Law, says this case "could be tied down in litigation for quite a while. Even if the tribe is ultimately successful, it often takes a long time to get there".
November 29, 2019
Courtesy of ABC10
Wilton Rancheria will build a $500 million resort casino in Elk Grove, California at the site of the "ghost mall", an unfinished shopping mall that was abandoned after bankruptcy in 2008. The partially built structure has stood empty since that time.
That situation is now changing. Construction workers are onsite to demolish the northern section of the ghost mall which should take 3-4 weeks. This will clear the building site for the Wilton Rancheria casino which is scheduled to start by the end of December.
At the demolition event, Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond Hitchcock said, "We're starting a new chapter moving closer to a brighter future for our tribal citizens the people of Elk Grove and the greater Sacramento region."
The southern half of the ghost mall is owned by Howard Hughes Corp, which filed for demolition permits last week. The company will clear that section by end of February.
October 29, 2019
Earlier this month a District of Columbia federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Stand Up for California for the purpose of blocking the Wilton Rancheria from building a casino in Elk Grove, Sacramento County, California.
At that time many considered that decision by U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden to be the winning end to a long legal fight with activist, opposition groups. It was hoped to be the final court battle for the $500 million Elk Grove casino project.
However, two weeks later on Oct. 21, the judicial decision was appealed by Stand Up for California! The group wants to reverse the ruling and has 60 days to provide written arguments that support their appeal.
Their arguments involves the Feb. 10, 2017 decision by the U.S. Department of the Interior to take the Elk Grove casino land into federal trust for the benefit of the tribe.
Stand Up claims that action was taken in an "extraordinarily expedited two-month review at the end of the Obama administration after spending several years reviewing a separate site in Galt."
As a result this "last-minute switch" to the Elk Grove site misled the public, and thus resulted in "an inadequate analysis of the project's impacts."
Wilton Rancheria Tribal Chair Raymond "Chuckie" Hitchcock disagreed with the claims.
"That's just simply not true," he said. "Elk Grove, Galt and Wilton were different alternatives (that) were all being reviewed at the very beginning of the scoping period back in 2013. They all have mounds of environmental documents.
"Did the preferred site change at the end, once it was revealed that the most preferred site and less environmentally impactful was the Elk Grove site? Yes. But was it reviewed and studied to the fullest extent (of) BIA (requirements)? Absolutely."
Hitchcock believes this appeal has no chance of overturning the judge's ruling, and added, "The tribe fully expects to put a shovel in the ground in the very near future, regardless of this frivolous appeal."
October 16, 2019
A District of Columbia federal judge has dismisses a lawsuit filed by Stand Up for California to block Wilton Rancheria from building a casino in Elk Grove, Sacramento County, California.
U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden issued his ruling Oct 7 and cited the fact that the Elk Grove casino project location was land occupied by Wilton ancestors and located near historical tribal sites. He found "no evidence of a legal or procedural flaw" in the U.S. Interior's decision to take that land into federal trust for the tribe.
Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond Hitchcock issued this statement following the ruling:
"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. We will continue to move ahead with our plans to build the resort and casino."
Hitchcock also said the groundbreaking for the casino is "imminent
July 4, 2019
In another attempt to block construction of the Elk Grove casino project, the activist group Stand Up for California! filed another lawsuit on June 13, 2019 against the U.S. Department of Interior and the Wilton Rancheria that challenges the legality of transferring Elk Grove land owned by the tribe into federal trust for the purpose of building a casino.
The U.S. Department Interior completed the land transfer in Feb 2017. Stand Up for California! wants the U.S. District Court to vacate that land transfer into federal trust and rescind the records of conveyance.
On July 3 both defendants filed their responses with the court. The Bureau of Indian Affairs filed a 20-page report for the federal government claiming a "bad faith" challenge by the plaintiff. The Wilton Rancheria filed a 25-page response in its defense.
Tribal Chairman Raymond Hitchcock said, "I am most confident that the litigation is going to go in our favor in the next few months. The judge will be reviewing all the documents and this salacious litigation put before the tribe by Stand Up for California! for the past two years will finally come to an end in the tribe's favor."
Hitchcock then mentioned the construction schedule may be somewhat delayed pending the court's decision. He feels the construction will likely be completed by the end of 2020 or early 2021.
March 25, 2019
The casino site for the Wilton Rancheria casino proposed for Elk Grove has been cleared of previous construction projects including the abandoned "Ghost Mall".
Eleven years ago the Howard Hughes Corp began construction on a shopping mall at Highway 99 and Kammerer Road. Construction was stopped and never resumed resulting in the "ghost mall" nickname. Hughes officially abandoned the project earlier this year.
January 25, 2019
A federal judge has denied a lawsuit filed two years ago by the anti-casino group Stand Up for California! against the U.S. Interior Department and the Wilton Rancheria in an attempt for a restraining order to stop construction of the tribe's casino resort planned for Elk Grove, California.
The lawsuit alleged the inappropriate contact early communications between the federal government and tribe, and all correspondence and documents during that time should be made availabe to the plaintiff.
A decision last week in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. ruled against the activist group. Judge Trevor McFadden wrote "federal regulations require conversations between the department and tribes about the land acquisition process before the release of a decision."
This is the second lawsuit filed against the Elk Grove casino by Stand Up for California! Two years ago a federal court rejected their claim that the Interior Department's approval to place the casino site into federal trust was invalid because it was made by an interim official of that department.
January 4, 2019
Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond Hitchcock said last week his tribe expects to finish construction of the Sky River Casino by the end of 2020.
A final determination of the opening date will be announced later based on progress of the project. Hitchcock said "There's no definitive date yet, but we're looking at early 2019 to begin this process, and it's slated for completion by late 2020."
Construction is expected to take 12-18 months to complete.
November 07, 2018
On October 31 the management contract for the proposed Elk Grove casino was approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission.
The proposed casino will be owned by the Wilton Rancheria tribe. Boyd Gaming will be partnering with the tribe for the casino project. One reason why approval must be given from the commission is to be sure that the tribe is not taken advantage of.
The environmental impact statement was also submitted with the management contract. The U.S. Department of the Interior completed the report previously as part of the process for taking land into trust for the tribe. This occurred last year.
The tribe is now a step closer to receiving their final approval to build their casino. If progress continues to be made, the Elk Grove casino could open by late 2020.
January 23, 2018
The gaming compact between the state of California and the Wilton Rancheria tribe has been approved. On January 22 a notice of federal register was published by the U.S. Department of Interior. The Elk Grove casino will be allowed to be operated under the approval of the compact.
The casino resort will be built near Kammerer Road off Highway 99 at a cost of $500 million. Ground breaking could be scheduled as earlier as Summer 2019. It is estimated that the project could be completed in 18 months to 2 years.
In 2009 tribal status was restored to the Wilton Rancheria. In February 2017 land was placed into trust. The property is 36 acres and was purchased for $36 million.
Boyd Gaming has partnered with the tribe for the casino operations.
Construction for the casino resort will create 1,600 jobs. When that is completed, full time positions for employment will be 1,750. It is possible that an additional 3,000 jobs could also be created based on indirect and direct support businesses for the project.
March 1, 2018
On Wednesday a federal judge, yet again, sided with the Wilton Rancheria tribe in another lawsuit that would prevent the tribe from moving land into trust for their future casino.
The land is located in Elk Grove. It consists of 35.9 acres.
It was decided that authority to move the land into trust was lawful when it was approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs principal deputy assistant secretary, Larry Roberts.
The ruling resulted in excitement from the tribe. After a multitude of lawsuits, the ruling moved the proposed casino project another step forward into becoming reality.
They were grateful that the trust was upheld and that there were supported by the federal government. The tribe will be able to keep their right to their sovereign land.
The organization that was attempting to stop the tribe is Stand Up for California. After the ruling, the group was determined to file a different complaint for other federal law violations committed. This includes the National Environmental Policy Act and Indian Reorganization Act. The project has also be opposed by residents of Elk Grove and owners of card rooms that are concerned about how the casino would effect their businesses.
The approval of the casino was also the center of an additional lawsuit. Officials for Elk Grove were accused of working with the tribe to move the project forward in an illegal way. However, in December a request for dismissal was filed by the plaintiffs.
Located close to Highway 99 the casino will be developed next to an outlet mall.
Boyd Gaming has decided to partner with the tribe to develop the $500 million project. Plans include a casino, convention center, and hotel.
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