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Boyd Gaming opens its Sacramento-area casino a month ahead of schedule

Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz

Boyd Gaming and the Wilton Rancheria Tribe quietly opened a $500 million casino near Sacramento last week with neither fanfare nor a grand opening celebration.

The Sky River Casino in the capital city’s suburb of Elk Grove was scheduled to open in mid-September. Shortly before midnight on Aug. 16, the casino’s Facebook page carried the message, “Psst…you up? We’re open.” The post showed an image of active slot machines.

Boyd Gaming, which built and will operate the casino for the tribe through a seven-year management contract, did not put out a press release or file a statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission announcing the opening.

“We completed construction early and completed the prep work for the opening. We felt comfortable and didn’t see any reason to delay the opening,” Boyd spokesman David Strow said Monday. A grand opening celebration for Sky River will take place next month.

The casino, which does not have a hotel, has 100,000 square feet of gaming space that includes 2,000 slot machines, 80 table games and 17 food and beverage venues.

Boyd Gaming CEO Keith Smith did not give investors any hint of an early opening for Sky River during the company’s second-quarter conference call in July.

“Thanks to its location just south of Sacramento, this property is well-positioned to capture a significant share of the Sacramento and Bay Area markets,” Smith said, calling the property “a compelling entertainment experience.”

Wilton Rancheria Tribal Chairman Jesus Tarango credited Boyd with getting the casino open ahead of schedule.

“That’s what you get when you get a good partner with Boyd Gaming,” he told the Elk Grove Citizen about the early opening. “They’ve been in the game; they know how to do it.”

Entrance to the $500 million Sky River Casino near Sacramento, California that Boyd Gaming operates for the Wilton Rancheria Tribe. (Courtesy photo)

Sky River includes a vacant 64-acre site owned by Boyd Gaming next to the casino, which sits on 36 acres along Highway 99. The future development of the larger parcel has not been decided.

Sky River is the third Northern California casino to open in the Sacramento area that could be viewed as direct competition to casinos in the Reno-Sparks area and South Lake Tahoe.

Harrah's Northern California in the town of Ione opened in April 2019 and is owned by the Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians. The casino is operated by Caesars Entertainment. Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain, which is operated by Hard Rock Entertainment for the Estom Yumeka Maidu Indians of the Enterprise Rancheria, opened in October 2019.

Gaming analysts and Reno leaders have said Northern Nevada’s economic upswing, thanks to an influx of large and small technology-based companies, has transformed Reno’s gaming industry from a tourism-dependent market into a traditional regional gaming destination driven by local customers.

The $120 million Legends Bay Casino, the first all-new, from-the-ground-up casino development in the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area in more than two decades, opens next week.

Meanwhile, Colorado-based Century Casinos is buying the Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks for $195 million.


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