Comstock's magazine 1118 - November 2018 - Page 82

In order to build the Wilton Rancheria Elk Grove Casino and Resort, Wilton Rancheria agreed to pay about $130 million to the City of Elk Grove and $55 million to Sacramento County over the next 20 years toward infrastructure and roads, the police department, school districts, and the general fund. And while Wilton Rancheria’s MOU with the City and County exists in lieu of taxes, Chair of Wilton Rancheria Raymond Hitchcock believes the agreed amount Stones Gambling Hall opened in Citrus Heights in 2014. is more than what otherwise would have been taxed, saying, “we went above and beyond to be a good community partner.” State licensed card rooms, on the other hand, are not exempt from municipal, state or federal taxes, and are only limited to build within the boundaries of the munic- ipality, an arguably larger area to speculate than a 30-acre rancheria. Roughly 90 licenses exist in the state. The state placed a moratorium on issu- ing new card room licenses in 1998, the cities that possess those assets have unique leverage over an extremely limit- ed commodity. Ryan Stone, co-owner of Stones Gambling Hall of Citrus Heights, admits cities with licenses “have a grand- fathered-in asset that other cities don’t.” “Every local government that has a card room negotiates [fees] between the card room [operator] and the municipal- ity,” explains Christopher Boyd, the city manager of Citrus Heights. “In our case with Stones, it’s a table fee that is about 82 | November 2018 $30,000 to the city. It’s not substantial, but they do contribute to the city through the gaming operation, and of course from sales tax at their restaurant, just like any other restaurant.” While Citrus Heights could have ne- gotiated a higher table fee, Boyd says the city considered the importance of a long- term relationship with a first class busi- ness.“We’re more interested in attracting quality businesses and safe operations, and the larger economic impact from Stones is that they are anchoring the growth in a commercial area that is in much need of economic development.” Even though tribal casinos and card rooms are both thriving businesses, these differences — city versus tribal land, busi- ness owner versus tribe, card games ver- sus slots — have often put the two at odds. But whatever the future of gaming looks like in California, the real worth of its eco- nomic impact might best be measured by comparing the present state of many Cal- ifornia tribes to their recent past. While it may seem anecdotal, Jensen suggests the long-term impact of casinos on tribal members has been immeasur- able, even priceless. “Gaming for tribes isn’t meant to line the pockets of individuals. It’s changing the lives of people. It’s providing educational possibilities. It’s regenerating pride. A lot of tribal people were ashamed to admit they were Indians. But I’ve worked with CNIGA for 20 years,” continues Jensen, who is not a tribal member. “I’ve seen a transforma- tion especially among the kids. There was an attitude of, ‘Well, I’m never going to col- lege so why bother graduating high school’ to ‘now I need to get my master’s because I want to run this tribe someday.’” And that, says Jensen, has been the greatest value-add of tribal casinos, creat- ing “opportunities that we all want for our kids that didn’t exist for them even 20 or 30 years ago.” n Jordan Venema is a California-based writer that enjoys gin and teaching himself dead languages. He received a master’s of liberal arts from St. John’s College, but swears he’s learned more from his precocious son, Cassian, than he ever did from a book. GAMING