Hard Rock Tejon Gains Federal Approval, $600M Casino Cleared for Construction

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tejon is officially cleared to begin construction. That’s after the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs agreed to take about 320 acres of land owned by the Tejon Indian Tribe into the federal trust.

Hard Rock Tejon California casino gambling tribe
Hard Rock Tejon California casino gambling tribe
An artist’s rendering of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tejon. The California tribal gaming project is officially cleared to begin construction after receiving the blessing of the US Department of the Interior. (Image: Tejon Indian Tribe)

For nearly a decade, the Tejon Indian Tribe, one of California’s many federally recognized Native American tribes, has been seeking to have its acquired land in Mettler placed on the Federal Register. The federal distinction is needed to allow the state to enter into a Class III gaming compact with the tribe. That would allow its envisioned tribal casino to house and operate Las Vegas-style slot machines and table games.

The Tejon Tribe signed its Class III compact with California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in June. The revenue-sharing gaming agreement becomes valid with the federal approval news.

“The Tejon Tribe now has a homeland where its citizens can work and live together and collectively ensure a safe and economic environment for all,” said Tejon Indian Tribe Chair Octavio Escobedo III.

Tribal Economic Security

The Tejon Indian Tribe claims to have established California’s first Native American reservation in 1853. The tribal reservation, however, was dissolved in 1864, with Tejon tribal members forcibly removed from the land.

Three years after regaining federal recognition in 2012, the tribe was able to purchase the 320 acres of vacant land in Kern County, roughly 25 minutes south of Bakersfield. The federal trust process, stalled by changing presidential administrations and a global pandemic, resulted in the Tejons only now having their property deemed sovereign. That’s after federal DOI bureaucrats said the tribe sufficiently demonstrated historical ties to the land in question.

With the feds’ backing, the tribe and development partner Hard Rock International, which is owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, can begin construction on the $600 million casino complex.

Soon, construction will begin on our region’s very own Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, with Kern County now joining an elite circle of cities that provide this tourism hub to their community and visitors,” Kern County spokesperson Ally Soper said in a statement.

Newsom said in a release that California “is proud” of the work it’s doing to assure tribal prosperity, while simultaneously mitigating potential negative societal impacts of casino gambling.

The casino is expected to generate more than 3,000 new jobs, most of which will be filled by non-Tejon tribal members. The Tejon tribe counts only about 1,200 members.

Groundbreaking on Hard Rock Tejon is likely next summer, with construction expected to take several years to complete.

Casino Community

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tejon is to occupy 52 acres of the newly deemed sovereign territory. The resort will be headlined by an 11-story, 400-room hotel, with a 165,500-square-foot casino housing more than 3,000 slot machines and table game positions.

The resort will offer 13 food and beverage venues, a spa and salon, a fitness center, a Hard Rock Live entertainment space, a resort-style pool complex, and meeting and convention space.

The rest of the sovereign land encompassing the casino resort will serve as the tribe’s community. About 102 acres will be dedicated to residential housing, 25 acres will serve the tribe’s government, and 43 acres will be set aside for organic farming.

A 22-acre RV parking lot and 29-acre community park are also planned. A 13-acre water detention and wastewater reclamation facility is additionally included in the tribal blueprint.

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