Win-River Casino’s Bid To Build I-5 Resort Gets Boost From New Compact

Written By Hill Kerby on October 11, 2023
Photo of rendering of potential new Win-River Casino in California on story on possible relocation.

Win-River Resort & Casino just had the biggest win of its 30-year history, and it had nothing to do with jackpots or financial reports.

The Redding Rancheria tribe, owner of Win-River Casino in Redding, entered into a new gaming compact with the state of California to extend its Class III gaming rights for the next 25 years. California Gov. Gavin Newsom made the agreement official on Sept. 30 by signing Assembly Bill 854.

California’s only Native American Assemblymember, James Ramos, authored the bill. It passed the Assembly floor with a 74-0 vote and the Senate with a 38-0 vote.

Compact moves CA tribe closer to getting new casino

Redding Rancheria’s Win-River Casino has been open since 1993. It offers over 32,000 square feet of gaming space, rendering it one of the smaller Northern California casinos.

It plans to change that by building a new casino and resort along the heavily trafficked I-5 on the city’s south end. Redding Rancheria CEO Tracy Edwards told KRCR-TV the new compact accounts for these plans.

“One of the key points in our compact is that, this compact, the state recognizes our ability to move to I-5. And this compact will govern when we move to I-5, that casino, also.”

Edwards added that the tribe was “very transparent with the state” with its plans, which the state recognized before ratifying the compact.

The new property will boast nearly 70,000 square feet of gaming space, a 250-room hotel, a conference center, an events center, a 1,500-seat amphitheater and retail shopping options.

Commitment to tribal sovereignty and self-governance

With the compact, Redding Rancheria will be able to continue its commitment to the well-being of the tribe and the surrounding communities throughout Shasta County, where it will enable the tribe to set aside money to support local governments directly, the tribe said in a release.

“This compact will carry Redding Rancheria through the next 25 years of gaming in California. The ratification signifies a momentous achievement in our ongoing commitment to tribal sovereignty and self-governance. This achievement underscores the importance of maintaining strong government-to-government relationships between tribal nations and other government organizations. The agreement between Redding Rancheria and the state government is a testament to the shared vision of promoting economic growth, job creation and community development.”

The tribe’s original agreement with the state came in 1999 when then-Gov. Gray Davis signed the first wave of 61 compacts that extended California tribal gaming rights for decades. Its Class III (full casino) gaming compact remained in effect through the end of 2020 with an 18-month grace period.

A ratified compact in May 2022 gave the tribe until the end of 2023 to strike a longer-term deal, one that is now official.

Hurdle after hurdle

Redding Rancheria has faced hurdles even before announcing its plans to relocate in 2019, despite owning the land since 2004. Before building a gaming establishment, the tribe must transfer the property to the federal government, where the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) can grant it fee-to-trust status.

The proposed I-5 site is zoned for agriculture, but a change to trust status would transfer zoning authority to a federal level and allow the tribe to proceed. It first applied with the BIA in 2010, unsuccessfully.

Opposition from residents has ramped up since 2019, echoed by the Redding City Council when it unanimously voted to oppose the Win-River relocation last December. The vote came as a response to Redding Rancheria’s proposal to the BIA, which it submitted earlier in the month.

In 2020, Shasta County sold adjacent land to a private holdings company that would have prevented public access to the new casino, effectively stopping the plan dead in its tracks. The tribe sued, saying the sale of land was illegal, and a judge agreed, ultimately resulting in the land being returned to the county and allowing plans for the casino to continue.

This year, controversy continued when Shasta County Supervisors approved a 30-year agreement for the tribe to support law enforcement, fire and other emergency services, and road and traffic controls upon building its casino. Several public safety officials opposed the agreement and said they were not adequately consulted.

‘Not the final step’

The new gaming compact between California and Redding Rancheria marks a significant step forward for the tribe, effectively giving it the green light (from a gaming perspective) to move forward with its new casino pending BIA approval.

Despite the achievement, Edwards kept the situation in perspective.

“This isn’t the final step. I think this is one of many steps. I think it’s a step that shows that the state recognizes that I-5 is a place for us to gain. So, it is not the final step. We’re waiting and hoping, and, hopefully, that will be sooner than later.”

Historically, the BIA tends to side with the local government’s wishes. In this case, it looks like it could go either way.

Edwards also added that even BIA approval would not be the final step. If approved, she expects to face lawsuits from local opposition.

Photo by Courtesy Win-River Casino
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Hill Kerby

Hill Kerby is a proponent of safe, legal betting, and is grateful to be able to contribute to growing the industry. He has a background in poker, sports, and psychology, all of which he incorporates into his writing.

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