Mechoopda Tribe Hopes Temporary Casino Will Be Ready By ‘Late 2023’

The Mechoopda Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria hopes its temporary casino will be ready for guests by “some time in late 2023.”

That’s according to Doug Elmets, a spokesperson for the tribe, who spoke with California Casinos over the phone.

“Construction is underway,” Elmets said. “And it is initially going to be a temporary structure. And the hope is that some time in late 2023, it will be operational. But it’s under construction.”

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That timeline is slightly different than the summer 2023 estimate posted on a sign near the construction of the temporary Mechoopda casino. Either way, both estimates have Butte County residents enjoying the new casino by 2024.

The exact location of the Mechoopda casino construction site is about 8 miles south of Chico near the Highway 99 and Highway 149 interchange off Openshaw Road. The facility will open in a temporary building. There is no estimated timeline for completion of the permanent casino.

That final structure will take up 42,000 square feet. When it opens, it will have 500 slot machines, 10 gaming tables, plus a food court. Per the tribe’s compact with the state, the tribe can have up to 2,000 slot machines in the casino. It will be a 21-and-over gaming facility. There will be no retail sportsbook, as sports betting in California won’t be legal until 2025 at the earliest.

The developer hired to build the Mechoopda casino is Swinerton. The firm has built more than 20 Native American-owned casinos, including several on the West Coast and four in California. Those four are: Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort, Sycuan Casino Resort, Pala Casino Spa Resort, and River Rock Casino.

“This casino has been a long time coming with the official compact approval being received in 2018, after more than a decade of attempts to move forward,” Mechoopda Tribal Chairman Dennis Ramirez said. “We are excited to be partnering with Palace Hospitality to help make this dream a reality. Their knowledge and experience in developing successful casino operation methods and programs makes them a perfect fit for our new venture.”

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Mechoopda Casino in the Works Since 2018

When the Mechoopda Indian Tribe broke ground for the construction of a casino in May 2022, it was a triumph after over a decade of expensive legal battles with Butte County officials.

The tribe’s official compact with the state to build the casino came in 2018, 26 years after the tribe’s federal recognition was restored. Even so, Butte County officials tried to block the Mechoopda’s plans. They claimed the tribe didn’t exist legitimately and had a manufactured history. That turned out to be a moot point, because the Department of Interior recognizes the tribe.

Now that the plans for a casino near Chico are more than hopes on paper, the tribe has 91 acres set aside for the facility. Overall, the Mechoopda own nearly 627 acres in Butte County, referred to by the tribe as “restored lands.”

The tribe will have competition, though. Two casinos are already in the county: Feather Falls Casino, owned by the Mooretown Rancheria of Maidu Indians, and Gold Country Casino & Hotel, owned by the Berry Creek Rancheria of Maidu Indians.

Elmets said that building the casino is progress toward “tribal self-determination and economic opportunities” for the Mechoopda Indian Tribe.

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Getting Some Help From Another Tribe

In January 2021, the Mechoopda Indian Tribe entered a partnership with the Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi-Yokut Tribe. The partners own Tachi Palace Casino Resort in Lemoore, about 290 miles south of Chico near Bakersfield.

While Tachi Palace is a destination resort casino with a hotel, entertainment venues, and restaurants, Mechoopda’s planned casino will be on a smaller scale. It will operate under a Class III gaming license.

About the Author

Cheryl Coward

Cheryl Coward is a writer for California Casinos with a background in sports journalism. She started her career as a news reporter in Washington, D.C. She's a die-hard women's basketball fanatic and founded the website as a result of that passion.