Elk Grove City Council Votes to Repeal Casino Ordinance

ELK GROVE -- It was never supposed to a night of  solid "yes" or "no" about the Wilton Rancheria's planned casino for Elk Grove, but it's clear that's what many around the Sacramento County town thought.

"I think approving a casino in Elk Grove would be an indication that we no longer want that hometown feel," said Kirtland Stout, one of about 25 people who complained to the city council about that issue along with possible increases to crime and congestion.

"Let's get started with this council -- with this casino. I've been all for it since day one," shared David Cano, who touted the project's job potential.

Kristyn Nelson described what the vote was actually about Wednesday, what the current owner and the Wilton tribe were really after.

"For most of us, we understand like what a clean title is on a vehicle. They're looking for a clean title on the property so they can move forward on the project the way that they see fit to move forward," said Nelson, spokeswoman for the city of Elk Grove.

After a recusal by Pat Hume, the rest of the council voted to deny that "clean title."

On its face that vote represents a detour to the forward motion on the project, in essence snake eyes for the 12-story, $400 million casino the Wilton branch of the Miwok tribe is betting on being part of a long-awaited mall complex near Highway 99.

It reverses a change to the development agreement with the mall owners that Elk Grove's council made in October.

That change allowed for the Howard Hughes Corporation to sell 36 acres of its mall-in-waiting to the Wilton Rancheria.

That move is the lynch-pin of the deal on the local level and might be the only thing that can stop federal approval.

But the tribe says no way.

Here's how Wilton Rancheria Tribal Chair Raymond Hitchcock assessed the vote:

"What just happened right here is the city acknowledged the fact they have no jurisdiction over Wilton Rancheria or its federal trust land. Federal law supersedes city and county law and ordinances," he said.

The Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs is the overriding authority in this case and on the last day of President Obama's administration the bureau inched the project forward by agreeing to place the potential casino land in a trust.

Two and a half weeks into Donald Trump's presidency questions remain about the status of that transfer.

The city of Elk Grove says that transfer is not complete and tribal leaders agree but aren't worried.

"It has not transferred as of yet, just an administrative step we're waiting for at this point," said Hitchcock.