Ellen Garrison: 916-321-1920, @EllenGarrison
Wilton Rancheria’s plan to build a tribal casino in Elk Grove took another step forward Tuesday when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill ratifying a compact between the state of California and the tribe.
Wilton Rancheria wants to build a casino and hotel complex next to Highway 99 at the south end of Elk Grove, adjacent to the long-dormant outlet mall project owned by Howard Hughes Corp. Over the last few years, the tribe has worked to get federal, state and local approval for the $400 million project.
The tribe said in a best case scenario, it would break ground by next summer.
“The governor’s signature represents the culmination of so much hard work over the past several years,” Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond Hitchcock said in a statement.
The governor agreed to the compact in July, but the state Legislature first had to approve it. Both houses signed off at the end of August, without any “no” votes.
Required for every tribal gambling facility, a compact sets guidelines for casino operation. Wilton Rancheria will be allowed to have 2,500 slot machines and must pay 6 percent of the house winnings from the machines into a state-run fund that shares revenue with casino-less tribes.
The tribe will start paying into the fund seven years after the casino opens because it has already agreed to pay millions of dollars to the city of Elk Grove and Sacramento County to mitigate potential public safety, traffic and social impacts of the casino.
Still, a cadre of local opponents, cardroom owners and gambling watchdog Stand Up for California are continuing to fight the tribe’s efforts.
The federal government took about 36 acres of land into trust for the tribe in January and later dismissed a challenge that the wrong official signed off on the move.