$600M Hard Rock Casino Tejon Receives Support from Local Californians

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By Devin O’Connor

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tejon south of Bakersfield, California, received overwhelming support this week from area residents, local officials, and business leaders.

The Tejon Indian Tribe, the only federally recognized Native American group in Kern County, wants to build a $600 million casino resort on land near California State Routes 99 and 66 in Mettler. A virtual town hall was held this week for the community to divulge their thoughts on the major development, and the feedback was overall positive.

“This is really a game changer. We’ve all heard about the $600 million impact of the project, but that does not count the future, new money coming into our economy,” explained Kern Economic Development Corp. President and CEO Richard Chapman. “This is going to create much needed economic parity.”

If the destination comes to reality, Hard Rock Tejon would feature a casino with slot machines and table games, 400-room hotel, RV park, numerous restaurants, convention center, entertainment venue, and spa. The tribe has acquired 306 acres of land in Mettler, which would become the Native American community’s official home.

The planned location of the casino is roughly 15 miles due south of Bakersfield – California’s 9th largest city by population.

Local Insight

Wednesday night’s virtual event was a celebration of sorts for the casino resort.

If somebody would have told me 20 years ago that a Hard Rock casino was going to be built near here, I would have told them that they had rocks in their head,” said local resident Dick Taylor. “But it is exciting to see that this is going to be a reality.”

Hard Rock says 1,000 construction jobs would be created with the development, and 2,000 permanent positions would be required to operate the facility.

Numerous non-government organizations have lent their support to Hard Rock Tejon, including the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, Bakersfield Board of Realtors, Tejon Ranch Company, Kern County Taxpayers Association, Kern Economic Development Corporation, Taft Chamber of Commerce, North of the River Chamber of Commerce, Black Chamber of Commerce, and Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Federal Input

It’s been a year since the Kern County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved of providing the tribe with $218 million worth of vital services over a 20-year period. In exchange, the tribe has agreed to build new fire and police stations at a cost of more than $13 million.

The tribe would also pay a six percent hotel occupancy tax to Kern County.

But before the project can officially move forward, the US Department of the Interior (DOI) must approve of the development. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s office is currently reviewing an environmental impact statement on the casino resort, which the DOI’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) finished just last month.

The environmental review has been in the works since 2015. The statement finally being released means Hard Rock Tejon is at last inching closer to breaking ground.

“Today is important because it is a step toward reestablishing a tribal homeland for the Tejon Indian Tribe,” said Tejon Tribe Chairman Octavio Escobedo.