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A13-year process is finally coming to a conclusion and one that paves the way for the Wilton Rancheria to enter California’s highly competitive gaming arena, building a $500 million Las Vegas-style casino in Elk Grove with partner Boyd Gaming.

“It was a long process. I thought it was going to be a 100-yard hurdle, but it seems more like a marathon,” Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond Hitchcock told BizJournals.com.

The Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri, of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, signed and approved the management agreement between Wilton Rancheria and Boyd Gaming to build a resort and casino on the Tribe’s trust land in Elk Grove, California, on October 31, 2018.

NIGC Chairman Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri signs the Wilton Rancheria-Boyd Gaming Management Agreement.

Chaudhuri’s approval followed the Commission’s recent celebration and conference in Washington, D.C., to commemorate and assess the impact of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) over the last 30 years and looking ahead into the future. Congress enacted the legislation on Oct. 17, 1988.

”IGRA’s regulatory framework incorporates longstanding federal policies supporting tribal self-determination,” said Chairman Chaudhuri. “These policies allow for tribes with a wide variety of histories and land bases to participate in the competitive tribal gaming industry. I am pleased after a very extensive and thorough review to approve the management contract for Wilton Rancheria that reinforces core self-determination policy principals in IGRA to allow the Tribe to engage in this form of economic development.”

“We are humbled and grateful to receive this approval, as we reflect on the positive impacts the National Indian Gaming Act has had for Tribes across the country,” said Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond C. Hitchcock. “We thank the Commission and Chairman Chaudhuri for their leadership and efforts as our Tribe continues its path forward to achieve self-sufficiency for our people.”

“We are gratified by the Commission’s approval, and we look forward to working closely with the Wilton Tribe in designing, developing and opening a first-in-class resort experience,” said Keith Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer of Boyd Gaming. “This development will benefit the Tribe and the City of Elk Grove by generating jobs, tourism and revenue for the entire community.”

This approval follows adoption of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs’ 2016 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), a lengthy and thorough process that spanned several years with extensive public input. After well over five decades, the Tribe was able to put 36 acres of land into federal trust in Elk Grove on February 10, 2017.

In July 2017, Governor Jerry Brown and Chairman Hitchcock signed a Tribal/State Gaming Compact, which was ratified unanimously by the State Senate and Assembly in September. On January 22 of this year, the U.S. Department of the Interior published in the Federal Register the notice of its approval of the gaming compact.

“The project will benefit the community and our people,” said Wilton Rancheria Chairman Hitchcock. “It will create thousands of local jobs and we are investing $186 million in the first 20 years with the City of Elk Grove and Sacramento County to support police, schools, roads and other community and social services. The project will also enable the Tribe to invest in medical care, housing and educational opportunities for its members.”

Wilton Rancheria’s tribal status was terminated in 1958, and the Tribe was finally restored, without land, in 2009, after a long-fought campaign by tribal elders. Wilton Rancheria is the only federally recognized tribe in Sacramento County. In November 2011, the Tribe adopted its modern Constitution, and since that time, tribal leadership has worked to improve the lives of its members and positively serve the community from its offices in Elk Grove.

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