Boyd Gaming will look to capital markets for Northern California project late this year or early 2020 Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · August 5, 2019 at 12:10 am Boyd Gaming’s planned $500 million resort project in Northern California will be the last of three Indian gaming developments to open during the current wave of casino expansion surrounding Sacramento. That doesn’t bother CEO Keith Smith. On last week’s second quarter earnings conference call, Smith told analysts the project with the Wilton Rancheria of Miwok Indians in the Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove, will be the closest casino to more than 5.5 million people. “Once complete, this resort will be exceptionally well positioned to serve the Northern California market,” Smith said of the project that he believes will draw customers from Sacramento region and the populous San Francisco Bay Area. “This resort and the revenue stream it will generate will be a historic step forward for the Wilton Rancheria Tribe and its quest for self-sufficiency, and it will be significant growth opportunity for our company as well,” Smith said. Boyd Gaming has shied away from making more than just cursory comments about the project, offering few details, such as number of hotel rooms, casino size and potential amenities. In response to an analyst question, Boyd Chief Financial Officer Josh Hirsberg said the company expects to approach the capital markets later this year or in early 2020 for construction financing. “We’re continuing to work through all of the components,” Hirsberg said. “Our expectation is that sometime later this year (and) certainly no later than first of next year that we would be in a place to do that.” Hirsberg said the project would have an 18-month-to-20-month construction timeline, placing an opening in either 2021 or 2022. “That’s basically where we are,” he said. “We are kind of just going through the process to kind of be ready to launch. California is the nation’s largest Indian casino market, accounting for more than 26 percent of all U.S. tribal gaming revenues. According to economist Alan Meister in the annual Casino City Indian Gaming Industry Report, the state’s Indian casinos produced $8.4 billion in 2016, roughly $2 billion more than the Las Vegas Strip. According to the report, California tribal casinos produced $965.9 million in non-gaming revenue, a figure that Meister predicts will continue to climb. Boyd’s project along Highway 99, a major freeway in the Sacramento area, will immediately compete with the United Auburn Tribe’s Thunder Valley Resort and two newer developments. In May, Caesars Entertainment opened the $168 million Harrah’s Northern California, 30 miles east of Sacramento, in partnership with the Buena Vista Band of Me-Wuk Indians. The property doesn’t have a hotel, but operates a casino with 950 slot machines, 20 table games and three food and beverage outlets. The $440 million Hard Rock Sacramento at Fire Mountain, a joint venture between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Enterprise Rancheria of Maidu Indians, is expected to open in the fall in Yuba City, 30 miles north of Sacramento. According to the Hard Rock website, the resort is expected to begin accepting hotel room reservations this month but has not detailed the number of rooms and suites. The casino is expected to have more than 1,500 slot machines, more the 55 table games and three food and beverage outlets. The investment community isn’t focused on Boyd’s Northern California development because it’s still a few years off from hitting the company’s balance sheet. Following the conference call, few analysts even mentioned the project. “With limited information on the project and financing, most investors we speak with are taking a wait and see approach,” said SunTrust Bank gaming analyst Barry Jonas. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.