Scotts Valley Band’s Vallejo Casino Clears Hurdle in US District Court

The Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians has cleared a hurdle in its efforts to build a casino in Vallejo, near San Francisco.

On Sept. 30, the US District Court in Washington, D.C. ruled in favor of the tribe regarding its $700 million casino project. In 2019, the Department of the Interior had denied the tribe’s proposal. It claimed the 128 acres of land the Scotts Valley Band wanted to add to its reservation to use for the casino didn’t fit the requirements to be ancestral land.

However, the Sept. 30 ruling from Judge Amy Berman Jackson sided with the Scotts Valley Band. She wrote that the tribe has “inescapable” ancestral ties to the Vallejo area.

Jackson went on to say that if there’s ambiguity or room for doubt — which there often is when a tribe has been forced to scatter throughout its history — it’s better to err on the side of the tribe. There are currently 67 California Indian casinos, owned by 64 tribes. The Vallejo casino would be No. 68.

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This ruling does not automatically pave the way for the Vallejo casino project to break ground. The DOI still has to approve the proposal. But it’s far more likely to do so now that the US District Court has essentially instructed it to do so.

A decision will likely come in 2023.

Vallejo Casino Details

The Scotts Valley Band’s casino in Vallejo would be 400,000 square feet — among the largest of the California Indian casinos. Beyond gaming, it would feature a hotel, movie theater, bowling alley, arcade, spa, restaurants, and bars.

The tribe filed its application to transfer the 128 acres to reservation status back in January 2016. So, in the new year, this process will hit its seventh year. If the DOI approves the land transfer, the Scotts Valley Band would need to negotiate a tribal-state gaming compact with California and get federal and state approval of that before it could break ground on the casino.

Vallejo is 32 miles north of San Francisco, at the top of the San Pablo Bay. It’s sandwiched between the San Pablo Bay Wildlife Refuge and the Grizzly Island Wildlife Area.

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About the Author

Matthew Bain

Matthew Bain started as News Editor and Content Manager at California Casinos in 2022. Before that, he spent six years as a sports reporter and then deputy sports editor for the Des Moines Register, during which time he won nine statewide journalism awards, including the Genevieve Mauck Stoufer Outstanding Young Iowa Journalists Award. As deputy sports editor, Matthew oversaw the Register's recruiting coverage while also innovating the outlet's high school sports coverage. Matthew graduated from San Diego State and grew up in California, but he's somehow a Boston Celtics fan. Long story.