Elk Grove tribal casino gets OK from state Legislature

A conceptual drawing of the Wilton Rancheria casino proposed for the south end of Elk Grove.
A conceptual drawing of the Wilton Rancheria casino proposed for the south end of Elk Grove.

The state Assembly gave final legislative approval Thursday to a compact between the state of California and Wilton Rancheria, which wants to build the first tribal casino in Sacramento County.

Gov. Jerry Brown had agreed to the compact terms July 19, but it still needed to be ratified by the Senate and Assembly. Both approved Assembly Bill 1606 without any “no” votes. It now goes to the governor for his signature.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Raymond C. Hitchcock, chairman of Wilton Rancheria. He called the Legislature’s approval another milestone in the tribe’s effort to gain “economic sustainability and self sovereignty.”

Wilton Rancheria had its tribal status and land taken away in the late 1950s. It won back federal recognition as a tribe but not its traditional lands near Wilton, and many of its members remain impoverished and unemployed.

For the past two years, the tribe has been on a quest to win federal approval to acquire tribal lands and to build a casino and hotel complex next to Highway 99 at the south end of Elk Grove. It has faced opposition and legal challenges from some residents, cardrooms and a gambling watchdog group.

The compact the Assembly ratified Thursday allows the Wilton tribe to operate 2,500 slot machines, which are usually the most lucrative revenue sources at tribal casinos. The deal requires the tribe to pay 6 percent of the house’s win from its slot machines into a state-run fund that shares revenue with tribes that don’t have casinos.

Stand Up California, a Penryn-based gambling watchdog group, has vowed to continue challenging the project in federal court. A separate lawsuit by a group of Elk Grove citizens filed in June alleges Elk Grove officials illegally colluded with tribal leaders.

Hitchcock said he believes the tribe’s project will eventually be built.

Hudson Sangree: 916-321-1191, @hudson_sangree