Steve Ruddock Elk Grove California casino vote

There’s a new update on a story we’ve been tracking for several months: The Wilton Rancheria Tribe has run into a roadblock in its efforts to bring a $400 million casino to town of Elk Grove.

On Feb. 7, Elk Grove city council members unanimously voted (4-0 ) to “repeal an ordinance from October that allowed Howard Hughes Corp. to sell 35 acres to the Wilton Rancheria Indian tribe for a casino,” according to the Sacramento Bee.

Mayor Steve Ly, who cast one of the four votes against the tribal casino, told the Sacramento Bee he was torn between public sentiment and the casino’s promise of jobs, but in the end he grew tired of the divisiveness the issue was causing within the small community.

One councilman, Patrick Hume, recused himself from the vote.

The next step for Wilton Rancheria

The city council vote squashes a potential voter referendum on the matter.

Such a vote would require a standalone referendum, which comes at a steep price for a community the size of Elk Grove. Not to mention, the referendum doesn’t necessarily put an end to the project.

Nor does the city council vote, actually, but it does put the brakes on it for the time being.

In the end, the final decision will be in the hands of the federal government.

According to the Sacramento Bee’s reporting, it looks like the casino will still be constructed:

“Tribal chairman Raymond Hitchcock said he’s confident the land will be taken into trust by the Trump administration. The Interior Department has already given the tribe its decision, Hitchcock said. He characterized the final steps to place the land in trust as an administrative matter.”

A messy situation just got messier

As I noted in December, this is an extremely involved tribal casino case.

The modern Wilton Rancheria tribe is comprised of two tribes, the Me-Wuk Indian Community of the Wilton Rancheria and the Wilton Miwok Rancheria.

They were recognized as a single sovereign tribal nation in 2009 and were given permission to purchase land that could later be placed in trust. The original tribes didn’t possess any tribal lands that could be placed in trust when they were recognized by the federal government.

Sovereignty and land in trust are the two key requisites for building a tribal casino.

Essentially, the Wilton Rancheria were able to shop around for a prime location to build a casino, and the location the tribes chose, in Elk Grove, rankled the local card rooms. John Mikacich of Limelight Card Room is one person who has been speaking out against the casino.

“When Indian casinos were legalized in California the idea was they’d be built in more remote, rural areas – not the fringes of booming suburbs,” the Sacramento Bee paraphrased Mikacich as saying back in December.

“I respect the tribe for trying to create an economic opportunity for themselves, but I think it’s important to create boundaries for where casinos can go,” Mikacich added.

Image c/o City of Elk Grove

Steve Ruddock
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