Casino outside Sacramento gets federal approval

By Don Thompson Associated Press Writer
Monday January 07, 2002

SACRAMENTO – A California Indian tribe has received the permission it needed to construct a $100 million Nevada-style casino outside Sacramento, where it is expected to draw gamblers who now head for Reno, Nev. 

The U.S. Department of Interior took trust to 49 acres of unincorporated land near Roseville, northeast of Sacramento, on behalf of the United Auburn Indian Community. 

“It’s an ideal location. It’s on the I-80 corridor between San Francisco and Reno, below the snow line,” said tribal spokesman Doug Elmets on Friday. “Those who don’t like going over the (Sierra Nevada) mountains in winter will find this incredibly convenient.” 

Construction may begin this fall and will likely take about a year. 

Reno-area casino operators have said they view the casino as perhaps their biggest competitor among the tribal casinos built or pending in Northern California. 

However, Elmets said the tribe and its Las Vegas-based management partner, Station Casinos Inc., intend to market the casino mainly to the Sacramento area. 

Nor will the 200,000-square-foot casino have the look or feel of glitzy Las Vegas or Reno, Elmets said, but will be designed to fit visually with the surrounding Sierra foothills communities. 

Opponents have 30 days to file objections. 

Local opposition was muted after the tribe reached voluntary agreements with Placer County and surrounding communities that were praised Friday by Interior Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Wayne Smith, Placer County Supervisor Robert Weygandt, and one-time opponent Cheryl Schmit of Stand Up for California! 

The tribe agreed to make up for lost local property taxes, pay $900,000 a year to compensate for increased police, fire and emergency services and contribute $50,000 annually to fight compulsive gambling in the county. It also agreed to create an advisory committee to hear community grievances, and to submit to arbitration despite the tribe’s immunity from lawsuits. 

The tribe settled on the unincorporated Roseville location after an unsuccessful attempt five years ago to put the casino near Schmit’s home in Penryn, close to two day-care centers and a Buddhist temple. 

It will now be in an industrial park, near a county landfill, recycling center and several factories, although subdivisions are being built within eyesight of the location. The 24-hour-a-day casino will be built near two large retirement communities and an upscale shopping mall, and is projected to attract 8,000 gamblers a day. 

Tribal Chairwoman Jessica Tavares said Friday’s announcement means “a new chapter in our history — one marked with renewed hope and economic self-sufficiency.” 

The United Auburn Indian Community was recreated by an act of Congress in 1994, 27 years after it officially ceased to exist. It reached an agreement with Gov. Gray Davis’ administration in 1999 that will allow it to provide Las Vegas-style gaming. 

Some of the tribe’s approximately 220 members live on an impoverished 30-acre reservation in Newcastle, but the tribe hopes to use gambling proceeds to buy and improve an 1,100-area area near Sheridan for those who wish to relocate.