With the Tule River Indian Tribe getting a permit for a long-awaited relocation and the San Miguel Bad of Mission Indians inking a deal with the Oakland Raiders, it’s safe to say that Californian tribes have been making significant strides in 2019. Now, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians has followed suit by kickstarting the construction of their new casino in Cathedral City.
Geographically, the venue will be located just between the tribe’s other two gaming ventures – the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage and the Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs. Not only will this project revitalize the decrepit downtown area of Cathedral City, but the tribe also promised hefty incentives to local authorities, all of which will change the community for the better.
A Long Journey Coming to an End
Even though the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians is an established operator on the West Coast, they still had to overcome several legislative hurdles to break ground on their third venture. After a lot of lobbying and negotiations, then-Governor Jerry Brown signed a special gaming compact that would allow the tribe to build or operate up to four more casinos. All of their future ventures will be limited to just 500 machines, but this isn’t a problem for the tribe, as they’ve always been oriented towards smaller, local gaming projects.
The next hurdle was the fact that land acquired by tribes after the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (IGRA) couldn’t be used to build a casino. However, the Agua Caliente Band cleverly found a loophole which stated that IGRA isn’t applicable when the land is “contiguous to or located within the limits of a reservation.” The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) ruled in favor of the tribe, thereby declaring the Cathedral City plot contiguous to the Agua Caliente Reservation. The verdict was officially approved by Tara Sweetney, the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs.
In 2017, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians bought a 12.5-acre plot in downtown Cathedral City. They had to wait almost two years to get the approval of the city council, but the deal was finally struck on August 28.
On November 4, the tribe officially broke ground, much to the joy of everyone gathered to witness the first step in the construction process. At long last, the city got a much-needed makeover. Aside from the obvious aesthetic benefits, the deal includes additional contributions by the tribe.
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians agreed to pay the city $650,000 on an annual basis, for ten years. These payments were described as nothing more than insurance for any negative side-effects that might be caused by the casino. Given the fact that Cathedral City has a crime rate of about 17 per 1000 citizens, which is close to the national average, industry experts strongly believe that there won’t be an uptick in a crime or any kind of sprawl.
Tribal Chairman Jeff L. Grubbe and Cathedral City Mayor Mark Carnevale couldn’t help but show their excitement. Both men reiterated that the crux of this project is the cooperation itself. As a part of the deal, the tribe made a $5.5 million contribution to the building of a new home for the Cathedral City fire department. Carnevale expressed his joy by saying that he hopes to make the center of town “a regional entertainment hub.”
A Thing of Beauty
The new, yet-unnamed casino will be a part of a larger 125,000 square-foot facility, with 65,000 square feet being devoted solely to gaming. Slot machines and roulette tables will be abundant, with an additional eight tables games on the premises. Aside from the casino, the area will also feature new bars, restaurants, retail places, and offices.
Aside from this marvelous project, the Agua Caliente Band is currently in the process of building their Agua Caliente Cultural Museum in Palm Springs. In addition to this, the new Cathedral City casino will be joined by a state-of-the-art hockey and entertainment area. It will house 10,000 people and is due to be completed in 2021.
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