A new casino development south of Bakersfield, California, has received huge support during a public hearing held by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Wednesday. The Tejon Indian Tribe, in partnership with Hard Rock, is hoping to set roots through the $600 million project, as the 1,045-member tribe has no designated reservation.
Draft Environmental Impact Statement
The BIA released a draft environmental impact statement, evaluating the impact of the project on all aspects of life in the area. The bureau established the surrounding area would not be much impacted by the casino and the hotel, as long as mitigation measures are taken.
As per the most expensive version of the project, the Tejon Tribe is seeking to build a casino resort that will include more than 100 acres of land reserved for residential housing, fire and sheriff’s stations, as well as an organic farming area and a community park. The tribe has been seeking for years not only to gain federal recognition, but also to establish a homeland for the generations.
“Today is important because it is a step toward reestablishing a tribal homeland for the Tejon Indian Tribe.”Octavio Escobedo, Chairman, Tejon Tribe
The casino development meant for Kern County has been fully supported by local leaders and businesses, citing the enticing financial gains as well as the prospects for jobs. According to Seminole Tribe-owned Hard Rock, the casino project will generate nearly $60 million in annual payroll, for more than 2,000 permanent jobs, 1,000 construction jobs, as well as 2,000 indirect jobs.
Other officials pointed out the casino would allow the county to diversify away from its dependence on oil and agriculture, as both industries are subjects to cycles of boom and bust.
Final Impact Statement to Decide the Casino Fate
After the public hearing, the BIA will address all of the substantive comments in its final environmental impact statement, with July 27 deadline for submitting further public comments on the matter to the bureau. The final impact statement will then be submitted for reviewing to the US Secretary of the Interior where the decision whether to move forward with the project or not will be taken.
Meanwhile, California moves along its phase reopening plan with the state currently being in Phase 3 which allows casinos as well as other non-essential businesses to operate. The state has 69 tribal casinos operated by 62 of the 109 tribes, and some of the gaming properties resumed operations as early as May 15, despite opposition from St.Gov. Gavin Newsom.