Bakersfield · Business

Newsom signs-off on gaming compact for Kern Co.-based Hard Rock casino

The proposed Hard Rock Hotel and Casino project in southern Kern County took a major step forward Monday as Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a tribal-state gaming compact between the State of California and the Tejon Indian Tribe. 

Newsom’s agreement with the U.S. Secretary of Interior’s prior determination that the 320 acres of land is eligible for gaming allows the Tejon Tribe to obtain a homeland for the first time in over 150 years. 

The hotel and casino will be located off Highway 99 near the 166 Mettler exit, about a 25 minute drive south of Bakersfield. 

Out of the total 320 acres of land, the hotel and casino will sit on 52 acres while the rest will be used for other purposes for the tribe, including administrative offices, a healthcare facility, housing and other supporting infrastructure. 

“These decisions were necessary and significant steps toward the development of a tribal homeland for our Tribe, which has been landless for more than 150 years. Self-determination has been a priority since the Tribe was affirmed and federally recognized. From the start of our relationships with the United States government in 1851, our Tribe has fought for a homeland for our people,” Tejon Tribe Chair Octavio Escobedo III said in a statement. 

“Today, Governor Newsom made that dream a reality by moving the Tribe closer to the promise of self-determination through economic development and prosperity for its 1,200 members.” 

Once completed, the $600 million project will create over 4,900 jobs and house 400 hotel rooms as well as meeting and convention space. 

The Tejon Tribe, which was federally recognized as sovereign in 2012 and is the only federally recognized tribe in Kern County, first made headway on the project in 2019 when it submitted the plans to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

In June 2019, the tribe came to an agreement with Hard Rock International to operate and develop the hotel and casino. 

Soon after in July of the same year, the Kern County Board of Supervisors signed an intergovernmental agreement with the Tejon Tribe for the project. 

As part of the deal, Kern County will receive nearly $218 million in revenue over a 20-year period. 

That could result in the county boosting public safety with 13 additional hires to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and $10 million in funding toward a new sheriff’s substation, according to a 2019 county memo regarding the deal. 

The Kern County Fire Department could also see four new hires from the deal, as well as a ladder truck and wildland fire truck. 

Totaling the contributions with property taxes, the Tejon Tribe is looking at paying $7.4 million to the county annually.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.