Elk Grove’s Sky River Casino celebrates one-year anniversary

EG Citizen
Elk Grove’s Sky River Casino celebrates one-year anniversary

The Wilton Rancheria and their Las Vegas-based partner, Boyd Gaming Corporation, are celebrating the one-year anniversary of Elk Grove’s Sky River Casino.

Located near Highway 99 and Kammerer Road, the $550 million casino opened on Aug. 15, 2022, two weeks ahead of its scheduled opening.

The casino was built on the former site of the “Ghost Mall” – Elk Grove’s longtime partially built outlet mall, which was demolished in 2019 after 11 years of construction inactivity.

As Sacramento County’s first tribal casino, Sky River Casino is operated by Boyd Gaming on land that is owned by the Wilton Rancheria, which is Sacramento County’s only federally recognized tribe.

The tribe, which primarily consists of Miwok and Nisenan people and has their own tribal government, regained that recognition in 2009, 50 years after having that status terminated by the federal government.

This casino is intended to fulfill the tribe’s main stated goal: to allow members of the tribe to achieve self-sufficiency through proceeds from this resort.

Sky River Casino currently offers 2,100 slot machines, more than 80 gaming tables, and 17 bars and restaurants. During the past year, the casino created more than 1,600 jobs in the community.

Building on its successful first year, Sky River will add a whiskey and cigar lounge, called The Humidor, to its offerings. Set to open early next year, the lounge will be located next to the sports bar and pub, 32 Brews Street.

Plans are also underway for a major on-site expansion, which will include a hotel, pool, spa, parking garage and event space.

On Aug. 10, a media event was held in advance of Sky River’s one-year mark to promote the milestone celebration, as well as the casino’s current and upcoming offerings.

During that event, Chris Gibase, president and CEO of the casino, announced that, this month, Sky River will be giving away eight Land Rover Defender vehicles, and about 80 Las Vegas getaway trips to lucky reward members as part of its $1 Million First in Class Anniversary Giveaway.

“It’s going to be a great month for our guests,” he said.

In an interview with the Citizen at the media event, Gibase noted that Sky River has been well received by the public since its first day of operation.

“It’s hard to imagine that last Aug. 15, in middle of the night, we did something that we thought was fun, which was (to) send a social media (announcement that the casino was open). And people came flooding in, like within minutes. And they’ve been here ever since. So, it’s been a really exciting year.”

Gibase mentioned that Sky River has placed much emphasis on providing hospitality.

“If you’re going to play a slot machine, you’re going to play a slot machine,” he said. “What separates is the treatment you get while you’re playing that slot machine or while you’re having dinner. And we do everything we possibly can to make sure we exceed everybody’s expectations.”

Wilton Rancheria Chair Jesus Tarango told the media, on Aug. 10, that it is important to his tribe to share information about who they are culturally with the community.

He followed that statement with a special announcement.

“Wilton Rancheria, next year, will be hosting the longest-running California Indian day powwow here in Sacramento,” he said. “So, it’s an honor for us to be able to take over that responsibility and obligation to bring communities together and truly educate on what we do. And also how we could continue to live together here in the modern-day era.”

Tarango also sat down to speak to the Citizen during the event.

He noted that reaching the one-year anniversary of the casino is reflective of the positive work performed by the tribe’s leadership and partners.

“(Wilton Rancheria) definitely had the opportunity to do something amazing, but you still have to step up to the plate and do the work,” he said. “And I think that our partners here for gaming have done that, and I think the tribe has done the same thing, holding up our end of the obligations and what we’re supposed to do. So, it’s a beautiful day.”

In addition to the funds that assist the tribal members, Wilton Rancheria will contribute nearly $132 million in recurring payments to the city and community of Elk Grove through a memorandum of understanding agreement that was approved by the Elk Grove City Council in 2016.

The tribe has already made several of those payments and will make their first recurring payment in the amount of $1 million next month.

Tarango spoke about the tribe’s contributions.

“We have an obligation not only to give back to the people of the city of Elk Grove, but the bigger community, the bigger picture,” he said. “And so, for that, I think that’s one of the things that we pride ourselves on, and definitely look forward to the future of making sure that even if you don’t step foot in Sky River, you’re going to benefit from us being here.”

As for the total amount that the casino has grossed since its opening, Tarango declined to disclose that figure.

“We’ll have to keep that on the under,” he said. “You know, again, we stick to those numbers. I probably wouldn’t make a comment on that (figure). All I will say is that we’re exceeding our expectations.”

Regarding Sky River’s future expansion, Tarango is looking forward to those additions and increasing its rankings among the state’s tribal casinos.

He noted that he has no doubt that Sky River will become a “top-three casino” in California, which is the largest Indian gaming state in the nation.

“We definitely want to give our brothers and sisters in (Southern California) a little bit of a run for their money, as well,” he said. “They definitely are what you want to become. You know, Yaamava’ (Resort & Casino, in Highland) does a very good job in Southern California, Pechanga (Resort Casino, in Temecula), as well.

“So, we definitely have some people to look up to, and maybe take some things out of their book. But we’re definitely excited about what the future holds.”