Posted: Jan 22, 2021, 12:28 PM.
Last update on: January 22nd, 2021, 01: 22h.
The outgoing Trump administration approved plans for a $ 600 million hard rock casino outside of Bakersfield, California earlier this month.
A representation of the casino proposed for Mettler, Kern County, 14 miles south of Bakersfield. (Image: turnto23)
The Tejon Indian Tribe proposal includes 166,500 square feet of gaming space, an 11-story hotel with 400 rooms, meeting rooms, 13 restaurants, and a Hard Rock Live event center. Once the project is up and running, it is expected to support 3,000 full-time positions.
The tribe’s leader, Octavio Escobedo III, said in an official statement that the decision by the Interior Ministry’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) enabled the Tejon “to move closer to the promise of self-determination through economic development”.
Since our relationship with the United States government began in 1851, our tribe has fought for a homeland for our people. ” Escobedo said. “Today we have come two big steps closer to this dream.”
In June 2019, Tejon announced that it had partnered with Hard Rock International under a development and operating agreement. In his statement, Escobedo, the Seminole tribe of Florida owned by Hard Rock International, said “stood shoulder to shoulder with us to make our dream of restoring our land base a reality.”
The Tejon tribe was recognized by the federal government in 2012. Three years later, he applied for the property earmarked for the casino to be trusted.
This is the process by which the federal government converts non-tribal land to tribal land, removing some of it from the jurisdiction of the state. This makes casino games legally possible under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (1988).
In making its decision, the BIA must determine whether gambling is in the best interests of the tribe and the surrounding community.
“These decisions are a necessary and important step in the development of a tribal land for the tribe that has been landless for more than 150 years,” said Escobedo.
Eyes on Newsom
The final approval is now with the California Governor Gavin Newsom (D). There’s no word on whether the Democratic governor has strong feelings for or against the casino, though the tribe has many reasons to be optimistic.
Governors usually have to join the DOI when it comes to awarding land-in-trust for tribal games. In the meantime, the project has received broad support from the public and locally elected officials. An environmental impact report on the plans, which took more than five years to complete, was well received by the BIA. It contained dozens of local support messages from residents.
However, in a message to the BIA, the anti-casino group Stand Up for California described the report as “inadequate” and “flawed in many ways”.