Posted on: August 16, 2022, 02:27h. 

Last updated on: August 16, 2022, 03:56h.

Sacramento County’s first tribal gaming casino opened at midnight on Aug. 15, two weeks ahead of schedule. The Sky River Casino — located 15 miles south of downtown Sacramento in Elk Grove — was developed and built for the Wilton Rancheria Tribe by Boyd Gaming. The Las Vegas-based company is contracted to operate the casino for its first seven years.

Sky River Casino Sacramento Tribal Elk Grove Boyd Gaming Wilton Rancheria
The Sky River Casino is Sacramento County’s first tribal gaming casino, seen above. It opened on Aug. 15, two weeks ahead of schedule. (Image: Sky River) 

Nicknamed “Sac Vegas” in its marketing materials, Sky River required years of planning and a reported $500 million to build.

A third of its 300,000 square feet is dedicated to gaming, according to the casino. That includes 2,000 slot machines, 80 table games, and a 12-table poker room. The property also has 17 new restaurants and bars, including a steak house and tap room.

Plans are to add a spa and a hotel in the future.

Curse of the Ghost Mall Lifted

Sky River holds a special significance to local residents, not just because 2,000 have been hired as employees. It was built over a formerly abandoned mall complex seen as a blight on the landscape for years.

I think it goes back to the ghost mall, so the residents of Elk Grove remember what this place looked like, and so to see what it is now, and what it is going to become, it truly is a special moment — important to Elk Grove and also my people,” Wilton Rancheria Tribal Chairman Jesus Tarango told KCRA-TV/Sacramento.

The tribe first announced in 2016 that it wanted to open a casino in Elk Grove. California lawmakers approved a compact with the Wilton Rancheria in 2017 for the project, and the National Indian Gaming Commission approved Boyd’s management contract with the tribe in 2018.

Gaming Changer

According to the casino, Sky River will “easily contribute” $125 million to the local economy over the next few years. “This is a game changer, an entertainment complex like no other,” Sky River Casino President Chris Jibase told KCRA.

In an earlier press release, Tarango described the casino as “a transformative project that will provide resources to invest in housing, education, and health care for our more than 800 members, to preserve our language and culture, and to give back to the community for decades to come.”

Boyd Rival Also Entered NoCal Tribe Partnerships

This isn’t the first time a Las Vegas casino company has ventured to Northern California for a tribal project. Station Casinos, Boyd Gaming’s rival, developed the Thunder Valley Casino Resort north of Sacramento on behalf of the United Auburn Indian Community.

Station managed it for seven years under a contract that expired in 2010. Station also managed the Graton casino resort in Rohnert Park, 50 miles north of San Francisco, for seven years, until February 2021. In both cases, the tribes have since taken over casino operations.