Elk Grove Citizen
By Lance Armstrong - Citizen Staff Writer
The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) on Oct. 31 approved a management contract for the proposed Wilton Rancheria tribal casino-resort at Highway 99 and Kammerer Road. This deal is between the Wilton Rancheria and casino company Boyd Gaming.
Tribal Chair Raymond Hitchcock described the agreement as a means to protect the tribe.
“The agreement we have between us and Boyd Gaming, it’s good for the tribe,” he said. “The reason why the gaming commission has to review these management agreements is to make sure the tribe is not being taken advantage of, as has happened in years in the past.”
Along with the management contract, the commission also supported the environmental-impact statement, which was previously completed by the U.S. Department of the Interior to place land into trust for the proposed casino project. The 36-acre proposed casino site was placed into trust last year.
Hitchcock noted that the approval of the management contract brings the tribe closer to meeting its goal of having a casino built in Elk Grove.
“Getting the approval and the signature of the Indian Gaming Commission brings us one step closer to having a first-class gaming resort project in the city of Elk Grove on the tribe’s trust land,” he said.
NIGC Chairman Jonodev Chaudhuri stated in a press release that the approval of the contract does a lot more than create a business partnership between Wilton Rancheria and Boyd Gaming.
“This management contract supports the tribe’s efforts to better their community in many ways ranging from investing in schools to providing medical support for their people,” he wrote. “This management contract encompasses the spirit of what (the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) was created to do – maintaining that tribes are the primary beneficiaries of their gaming operations.”
While the management contract’s approval is good news for the Wilton Rancheria, there is still a pending lawsuit against the tribe.
Stand Up for California and three Elk Grove residents – collectively called Stand Up – on Oct. 1, 2017, filed a motion for a summary judgment in a case against the federal decision to place land into trust for the Wilton Rancheria.
Cheryl Schmit, director of the Stand Up group, said the fee-to-trust transaction needs to be resolved.
“In the last ruling, the judge said that these are issues that need to be looked at, because it appears the decisions were made at warp speed, without consideration,” she said.
Schmit also questioned certain environmental issues, in particular concerning water.
“There does not appear to be a sufficient water supply for the casino, let alone for all the other development in that area that folks would like to have,” she said.
Hitchcock commented on the current motion.
They’re just trying to stifle business and create frivolous lawsuits to help other gaming interests,” he said. “These things are going to pass.”
Hitchcock added that he anticipates other lawsuits.
“They’re going to continue to file lawsuits, I’m fairly certain,” he said. “They have a blank check to write and spend opposition’s money, and the opposition is other gaming interests. (They are) throwing these frivolous lawsuits at the tribe to try to slow us down.
“But we’re confident that the courts will continue to rule in our favor, and we will continue forward to opening up our resort project in Elk Grove.”
Hitchcock noted that the tribe is still anticipating a 2020 opening for its casino-resort.
“We expect to have the doors open late 2020,” he said. “I’ve said June 2020 (in the past), but I know that date is not going to happen. But 2020 is still something that we have on the schedule.”