Sacramento Business Journal
By Mark Anderson – Staff Writer, Sacramento Business Journal
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has rejected activist group Stand Up California’s suit claiming that a decision to put land into trust for the Wilton Rancheria tribe’s proposed casino in Elk Grove was not valid.
After years of effort, the Wilton Rancheria has won state, federal and local approvals in recent months to develop the $500 million casino.
But Stand Up California, a group that often opposes gaming developments, filed an administrative appeal against the federal approval to put land into trust for the tribe, arguing that the interim executive who approved the decision was not authorized to do so. The approval was made in January 2017 by then-acting Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Lawrence Roberts, an Obama administration appointee, as the Trump administration was taking office.
That argument was rejected last summer by Michael Black, who was then the acting assistant secretary of Indian affairs.
Stand Up then filed suit over the same issue. That suit was thrown out Wednesday by U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden.
“We won this one. I feel like we’re in round seven of a 15-round bout,” said tribal chairman Raymond “Chuckie” Hitchcock. “This was a pretty big one, in my opinion.”
Cheryl Schmit, director of Stand Up, said her group would appeal the decision, and it would also file other claims. “It’s not over yet,” she said.
The tribe could begin construction this summer, Hitchcock said.
The 758-member tribe and its financing partner Boyd Gaming Corp. of Las Vegas bought the land for the casino in February 2017. The Wilton Rancheria tribe, which is based in Elk Grove, wants to develop the casino resort on 36 acres within the site of an unfinished shopping mall at the south end of Elk Grove. The mall, called The Outlet Collection at Elk Grove, is being developed by Howard Hughes Corp.
The casino would include 110,000 square feet of gaming floor, multiple restaurants, a spa, 302-room hotel tower and the region’s largest convention center outside of downtown Sacramento.
Last September, the Wilton Rancheria tribe agreed to a deal with the city, under which it would pay Elk Grove $132 million over 20 years as mitigation for the casino’s impacts once it’s open.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a tribal gaming compact between the state and Wilton Rancheria in October.