, Ericka So, KXTV
The Wilton Rancheria held a community meeting on Wednesday, July 6, to share information about a proposed Elk Grove casino.
More than 300 people packed the conference room at Falls Event Center on Elk Grove Boulevard at 5:30 p.m. to listen to presentations and ask questions about the project.
This past June, the tribe announced it would move forward with plans to build a $400 to $500 million casino, hotel, and convention shopping center complex located off Hwy. 99 and Grant Line Road. The site has been sitting unused since 2008, after plans for a mall fell through due to the recession.
According to Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond C. Hitchcock, the resort will include a 12-story, 302-room luxury hotel, spa and fitness center, outdoor pool and BBQ area. There will also be a 30,000 square foot event center that can be used for conferences, concerts, or MMA. In addition, the casino will have 2,000 slot machines and 84 gaming tables.
Community members responded with mixed emotions.
“I think it’s a bunch of hog wash,” Elk Grove resident Keith Calapp said as he walked out of the meeting outraged. “Fact of the matter is, it wasn’t our community that was at that meeting.”
Calapp has lived in Elk Grove since 1976. He’s frustrated that the community doesn’t get a say in whether or not the casino will get built.
“It was a sales pitch basically and that’s it,” Calapp said.
Just minutes earlier, Judy and Stan Sala left the meeting with smiles on their faces.
“I think it’s going to bring a lot of people and a lot of trade in the city,” Stan said.
“It will help the economy in general because it will stimulate the mall,” Judy added.
The casino project is expected to bring in thousands of jobs, and as an employee at the Elk Grove food bank, Judy is excited to see an improvement in the unemployment numbers in the city.
“As a representative of the food bank, I’m especially interested in seeing jobs and stimulus to the economy all over elk grove, all over south Sacramento,” Judy said.
According to the Wilton Rancheria, the casino will also bring a huge boost to the economy. Steven Clauson, an area business owner, is looking forward to it.
“It goes right back into the community versus taking those funds and exporting them to either Roseville, or Red Hawk or Cache Creek, we just keep the money here,” Clauson said.
Traffic troubles and increased crime were other concerns brought up by the public. However, Clauson believes it won’t be a problem.
“I don’t know many people who are gambling at noon,” he said about the traffic. As for crime, Clauson thinks there’s no safer place.
“They’ve got a vested interest in keeping crime to a minimum. And who’s got better surveillance and security than casinos,” Clauson asked.
A troubling issue for Elk Grove parents is the fact the casino site would be located just a few miles away from several schools.
“We don’t want the kids to after school doing things they’re not supposed to do,” Son Phan, a father of four, said.
During the meeting, Phan was one of the many community members to submit a question. He wanted to know if the community would get a chance to vote on approval of the casino. According to Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond Hitchcock, the answer is no.
“What we want, what many people want, is a chance to vote on it. We don’t have that chance that’s the upsetting part,” Phan stated. “I’m honestly considering moving out. I have to live in a place I feel safe for my children and safe surrounding neighborhood.”
The tribe will still have to get an official decision from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. If approved, they hope to break ground in three to five years.