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Hard Rock Tejon casino-resort clears major hurdle

This rendering is a representation of the proposed Hard Rock Tejon casino-resort. (Courtesy Hard Rock)

The Tejon Indian Tribe of California has taken a big step toward the development of a $600 million Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tejon in Mettler.

Tribal officials signed a gaming compact with Gov. Gavin Newsom June 13. The compact not only gives state approval for the tribe’s reservation – the first time it has had a sovereign homeland in more than 150 years – but also establishes the terms for its gaming rights, which effectively gives the green light for the Hard Rock Tejon project to proceed. The site is located near Bakersfield in Kern County.

In June 2019, the tribe announced it had partnered with Hard Rock International (HRI) in a development and operating deal for the project. The tribe’s chair, Octavio Escobedo III, said at the time that HRI, whose parent entity is the Seminole Tribe, had “stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us to help make our dream of restoring our land base a close-at-hand reality.”

Hard Rock entered into a similar partnership with the Enterprise Rancheria Tribe of California, which resulted in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain opening in 2019.

The Hard Rock Tejon calls for an 11-story hotel with 400 rooms and a 166,500-square foot gaming floor. There would be convention and meeting space, an event center, restaurants, an RV park and tribal offices. Once completed the project is expected to create 4,900 jobs.

The original Tejon Indian Reservation was established in 1853 and was known as the first Native American reservation in California. According to the tribe, it was dissolved in 1864 after many of its inhabitants were forcibly relocated to the Tule River Reservation about 60 miles away.

The tribe was federally recognized in 2012 and today has approximately 1,200 members, which the tribe says have mostly lived in the Bakersfield area since the 1950s.

In 2015, the tribe applied to have a 306-acre parcel of land in Mettler taken into trust by the federal government. The Bureau of Indian Affairs signed off on the application in January 2021, saying it would allow the tribe to be self-sufficient and maintain a stable source of revenue to provide for governmental programs. Gov. Newsom then needed to approve the BIA decision, which he did June 13.

The tribe said it expects to use 52 acres of the site for the Hard Rock Tejon. The remaining land would be used for administrative offices, a health care facility and other infrastructure support. No specific timeline for construction or a predicted opening date has yet been announced.

More information is at hardrockhotelcasinotejon.com.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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