Newsom Signs Accord To Allow Gambling Near Bakersfield

Written By Rashid Mohamed on June 17, 2022 - Last Updated on October 18, 2022
Newsom signed a compact which allows gambling on land near Bakersfield

Plans to build a massive casino resort in Kern County moved forward on June 13. California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a compact to allow gambling on land near Bakersfield.

The 11-story hotel and casino will be developed on a portion of a 306-acre parcel of land. It will be located about 25 minutes south of Bakersfield, off Highway 99.

The Southern California casino will add to the nearly 70 tribal casinos in the Golden State. The state still has not legalized gambling off of tribal lands, but California sports betting could be coming this November.

A complete resort experience

The gaming compact signed by the governor allows gambling at the future Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Around 52 acres is designated for the construction of the hotel plus 166,500 square feet of gaming space. Approximately 22 adjacent acres is designated for an RV park.

Guests will be in for a complete resort experience. The venue plans to include a hotel and 13 restaurants and bars. There will also be a Rock Spa and fitness facility, and the largest conference space in Kern County. Hard Rock Live, a unique concert venue, will also be held there.

The project will include more than a 1,000 construction jobs. It will create more than 2,000 permanent positions with an annual $59 million payroll.

Project will aid tribes and county

It’s been a long time coming for the Tijon Tribe. There are big hopes that the new resort will catapult not only the tribe’s economic prosperity but also that of Kern County.

As one of 500 federally recognized Native American tribes in the US, the Tijon Tribe is the only one in Kern County. According to the tribe’s news release, it’s the first land they’ve received in 150 years.

“We look forward to a long and rewarding partnership of mutual respect and cooperation between our tribe and the state.”

Appreciation was extended to the Kern County Board of Supervisors and all non-governmental organizations that aided the project. The tribe also thanked Hard Rock International and resort owners Seminole Tribe of Florida.

A press release from the governor’s office highlighted the cooperation between the Tijon Tribe and the county.

“The tribe committed through an agreement with Kern County to mitigate the impacts of the proposed gaming facility on public services and the surrounding environment.”

Initially announced in 2019, the project garnered the support of business, labor and community groups as well as law enforcement and public representatives.

“We have a great local development agreement with Hard Rock International and the Tejon Tribe,” said Kern County’s Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop.

Revenue will target heath and housing deficiencies

And this support couldn’t come soon enough for the Tejon Tribe. It has been no stranger to socio-economic inequities.

“Health and housing support,” said Sandra Hernandez, Treasurer of the Tejons. “Those are two of the biggest that we are seeing our tribe members dealing with.”

There are more than 1,200 members in the tribe. A third of the population is under the age of 18. Over half of the community lives below the federal poverty line. More than 30% of households receive support from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

One of the core principles of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act is to promote economic development, tribal sufficiency and strong tribal governments. That’s why Former Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Tara Sweeny proposed this project to Newsom more than a year ago.

A few hurdles remain, one major

The signed proposal will face some pushback. Concerned that other tribal governments might oppose the project, local lawmakers are rushing to reintroduce an earlier attempt to get the project through the California Legislature.

Final approval for the $600 million project is now contingent on a placeholder bill. It will be amended to include ratifying the compact Newsome signed this week.

Sen. Melissa Hurtado, the author of Senate Bill 910, said on Tuesday that she remains “cautiously optimistic” her bill will go through. She does anticipate concerns by other tribes.

“It’s not done until it’s done, and it’s not done yet.”

The principal co-author of the measure, Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, said the wrinkles that held up approval of the project last year appear to have been ironed out.

“This bill addresses the concerns from last year and mitigates impacts to the local community while bringing shared prosperity and community benefits to the state and Kern County.”

Interior has final say

Without the Legislature’s ratification of the governor’s action this week, the project may not move forward. Once the Legislature approves, then the federal Department of the Interior would initiate a 45-day review under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The secretary of the Interior will determine whether the land set aside is appropriate for gambling.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Rashid Mohamed

Rashid Mohamed is an international journalist with a special interest in sports writing. He is a Poli-Sci graduate of Ohio University and holds an A.A.S in Journalism. He has worked in a number of countries and has extensive experience in the United Nations as well as other regional, national, and international organizations. Rashid lives and writes out of Denver, Colorado.

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