Pandemic or no pandemic, a construction boom is heating up in the Sacramento area’s ultra-competitive gambling industry as Indian tribes continue to fight for supremacy.
Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln plans to break ground Tuesday on a $100 million indoor entertainment center. The center, to be called The Venue at Thunder Valley, will seat as many as 5,000 people when it opens in late 2022 and will sit adjacent to the casino itself, tribal spokesman Doug Elmets said Friday.
The groundbreaking by the United Auburn Indian Community, the owner of Thunder Valley, will come a week after the Wilton Rancheria held its groundbreaking on a $400 million casino called Sky River.
Sky River will become the seventh tribal casino in greater Sacramento and the first new casino since the Hard Rock resort opened in late 2019 in southern Yuba County. Together, the Sacramento-area casinos operate around 13,000 slot machines — about as many as the casinos in Reno.
Thunder Valley operates more slots — about 3,500 — than any of its regional rivals and goes to great lengths to expand its gambling and hospitality offerings as competition increases.
“The intent here is to always be many steps ahead of any competitor,” Elmets said. “No other casino in this region has anything like this.”
He said Thunder Valley is confident the COVID-19 pandemic will have eased to the point that large indoor gatherings will be allowed by the time the theater opens.
“This is the tribe and casino management planning for the future,” Elmets said.
He said Thunder Valley is already in discussions with multiple performers about appearing at The Venue, including Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Buffet, Sammy Hagar, Rod Stewart and Chicago. The center could also be used for comedy shows and sporting events such as boxing.
It remains unclear whether Thunder Valley will stage its outdoor concert series this summer, he said. The outdoor series, which began in 2010, has been held at a temporary amphitheater on the casino grounds. The amphitheater will be replaced by the indoor theater.