When the governor signed an agreement with the Tejon Tribe earlier this month, it meant another casino would be built in California. In reality, though, it established much more. The compact gives a major boost to both Kern County and the Tejon Tribe.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a tribal-state gaming compact with the Tejon Tribe to establish a tribal reservation and bring the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tejon to life.
The new property will feature a 400-room hotel, a 22-acre RV park, entertainment venue and convention center. The casino will feature 3,000 slot machines and 165,000 square feet of total gaming space.
Both the county and tribe expect to receive massive benefits from the Southern California casino.
Project creates revenue stream for county
The casino will create nearly 5,000 jobs for Kern County, both entry level and managerial, with a $60 million annual payroll.
Kern County CAO Ryan Alsop says the county has a local agreement with the tribe and Hard Rock International worth $218 million over the next 20 years. The county expects the project to generate even more economic opportunities. It has struggled to find additional revenue streams beyond agriculture and oil.
HRI is fronting the entire bill for the casino. That means no costs to county taxpayers. Plus, the economic benefits for the county will be felt from Day 1.
‘More than just a casino’ for Kern County
The casino resort is roughly 25 minutes south of Bakersfield, directly off Highway 99. It will also be within two hours of Los Angeles to the south and not much further from Fresno to the north.
More than 12 million California residents will be within reasonable driving distance from the resort when it opens. Alsop is excited about what the casino will bring to the county.
“This is much more than just a casino. This is a catalyst project for Kern County in many ways.”
He cited the impact the Hard Rock International brand will have on attracting business to the area for both entertainment and hospitality. Construction should begin shortly with the hopes of opening for business in 2023.
Agreement aids both tribe and county
Per the $218 million agreement to establish the resort, the Tejon Tribe will receive most of the casino’s revenues. They will also be exempt from paying taxes.
Police and fire services will be provided by Kern County. The tribe, though, will compensate the county with funds from the agreement. The tribe will also pay a 6% hotel-room occupancy tax to the county’s general fund.
Additionally, the county hopes the casino will bring increased traffic to other local businesses, both during construction and once the property opens.
Tribe will finally have a place to call home
The Tejon Tribe has 1,200 members. More than half live below the federal poverty line. The casino will give many a new opportunity to earn a better living and increase their economic standing.
The biggest benefit for the tribe is that it will finally have land of its own.
The history behind this dates back to 1851. That year, the federal government failed to ratify a treaty with several tribes. It would have granted the tribes, the Tejon among them, a combined 763,000 acres of land for reservations.
More than 170 years later, the 320,000 acres initially designated to the Tejon Tribe will finally be. The tribe has major plans for the reservation. New fire and sheriff substations will be built along with housing projects. Other infrastructure improvements include healthcare and education facilities and administrative offices.
Tejon Tribe Treasurer Sandra Hernandez summed it up.
“To date, we’ve had no land. And without land, you can’t gather or commune amongst yourselves. And that being one of the most pivotal things for us as a tribe and a family, to continue to grow together and grow in strength, this affordance of the land that we’ll be able to have will bring that for our family for the first time in 150 years.”