Early Success of Sky River Casino Leads To Expansion Talks

After a wildly successful opening in August 2022, Sky River Casino is eyeing expansion. Owned by the Wilton Rancheria Tribe and managed by Boyd Gaming, the casino was an immediate hit with Sacramento-area residents who packed the parking lot on opening day.

Located in Elk Grove, Sky River is the closest California casino to the capital and is the ninth gaming facility in Sacramento County.

Rosy Economic Outlook Fuels Expansion Talk

During its 2023 first-quarter earnings call, Boyd Gaming CEO Keith Smith provided an optimistic update on Sky River and mentioned expansion.

“Sky River continues to perform ahead of expectations generating $20 million in management fees for our company during the quarter. We are proud to have achieved such strong results for the Wilton Rancheria Tribe. And given this early success, Tribe is now considering expanding the property which could further enhance its long-term potential. Sky River is off to an excellent start, and we look forward to continued success in the years ahead.”

Tribal management fees are the payments made by tribe to the management company as a percentage of net income. Due to the casino’s early success, Boyd Gaming EVP and CFO Josh Hirsberg updated the initial $50 million estimate for the casino’s 2023 management fees:

“Given the ongoing success of this property, we now believe it is reasonable to expect that we will earn approximately $65 million to $70 million in management fees this year.”

Expansion Possibilities

Sky River Casino is a 100,000-square-foot casino that sits on 36 acres. Previously, it was the site of an abandoned mall. Just 15 miles from Sacramento, it has 80 table games, a high-limit room, 2,000 slot machines, 17 dining and bar areas, and live entertainment.

Based in Las Vegas, Boyd Gaming manages nearly 30 casinos in ten states. It has a seven-year management contract with Wilton Rancheria and opened Sky River a month early.

The casino expanded its parking lot last October. Ideas for future growth include adding a spa and hotel. Other ideas floated include building a dedicated live entertainment venue and a convention center.

Boyd Gaming owns 64 acres next to Sky River, where the casino could expand. Wilton Rancheria and Boyd Management have not revealed a timeline for expansion.

Sky River’s good fortune is a triumph for Wilton Rancheria. The tribe lost federal recognition in 1959 but gained it back in 2009 after years of struggle. Now 14 years later, Wilton Rancheria has a profitable casino popular with area residents.

Photo provided by Sky River Casino.

About the Author
Early Success of Sky River Casino Leads To Expansion Talks 1

Cheryl Coward

Cheryl Coward is a writer for California Casinos with a background in sports journalism. She started her career as a news reporter in Washington, D.C. She’s a die-hard women’s basketball fanatic and founded the website Hoopfeed.com as a result of that passion.