Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, owners of the Graton Resort and Casino, has signed the latest compact with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office that will authorize it to double the total number of slot machines.
This permission will launch a planned expansion that was first reported last year.
This latest, 200-page compact between California and the tribe substitutes a compact previously signed in 2012.
Under the terms of the compact, Graton Resort and Casino will have a total of 6,000 slots, up from the previous 3,000.
The deal came at an opportune time as the tribe follows its goal of extending not only its gaming space, but hotel accommodations outside of Rohnert Park, positioning itself as a very strong player in the local hospitality market and state’s $8 billion-a-year tribal gaming industry.
The extension of the gaming floor could give the property the second largest slot floor in entire California behind Yaamava’ Resort & Casino in Highland, which is owned and managed by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians (7,000 slot machines).
“In addition, the new compact also grows the sum of money the rancheria pays into the Revenue Sharing Trust Fund, an allocation that helps non-gaming tribes,” the tribe said in a statement Friday.
“That quarterly payment would go from $2 million to $2.75 million if the tribe takes full advantage of its slot machine cap,” the compact states.
Rohnert Park and Sonoma County get millions of dollars a year from the tribe to make it up for the effects on public services.
However, even the local government is not very included in the negotiations.
In this regard, Jenifer Clein, Chief Deputy Counsel for Sonoma County, said: “According to the new compact, the county and park would get 2% of net wins, which is a total sum betted on slot machines minus total payouts.
“The county does not know what it stands to receive in dollar amounts because it doesn’t yet know what the tribe’s net revenue will amount to.”
Moreover, she emphasized in an email that “the compact is not effective until it is approved by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.”
Commenting on the community funding, Greg Sarris, tribal chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, said in a release: “We’re happy to improve our compact with the State of California and continue to provide needed community funds for the City of Rohnert Park, Sonoma County and our state.
“This compact allows the tribe to grow as a self-sustaining sovereign nation and continue to support our mission of social justice and environmental stewardship.”
However, he didn’t want to comment further.
The close working relationship between Rohnert Park and the tribe:
Commenting on the compact, Don Schwartz, assistant city manager for Rohnert Park, said: “I haven’t had a chance to fully review the new compact.”
However, he noted a very close working relationship between Rohnert Park and the tribe.
In this regard, he added: “Graton Rancheria has provided a considerable funding for Rohnert Park schools and services.
“They have been very good neighbors. And we have every reason to look forward to that continuing.”
Still, Rohnert Park isn’t very included in gaming agreement negotiation, according to Schwartz.
In this regard, he added: “The city was in no way surprised by the new agreement.
“The city has established an ad hoc committee of the Rohnert Park City Council to work closely with the tribe led by Mayor Samantha Rodriguez and Councilmember Jackie Elward.”
The new agreement requires an expansion:
Currently, the $825 million casino has 3,000 slot machines, 144 blackjack, poker and baccarat tables, and few restaurants that serve patrons around the clock. But that’s not all; as a hotel with 200 rooms, congress space and ballroom opened in 2016.
Last year, Graton Rancheria reported plans for a large extension of its gaming floor and a second hotel tower.
However, among these plans, those involving Rohnert Park require extension of the casino floor by 50% and adding a five-story hotel tower with 221 rooms.
In this regard, Ms. Clein said: “As the compact moves forward, the county will be keeping an eye on several other elements, including: allowing the county access to the gaming facility for public health inspections, state liquor license requirements, making sure adequate fire suppression service is available and provisions governing payments to non-gaming and limited gaming tribes.
“The compact does not mention mitigation of environmental impacts or current agreements between the county and the tribe — something county officials will also be tracking.”
The casino and resort is one of the biggest private employers at Sonoma County, with more than 2,000 workers whose numbers will grow with the extension.
Tribally owned gamiing facilities continue to grow:
As Graton is the second tribal casino in Sonoma County, the first, River Rock Casino, officially opened in 2002 close to Geyserville.
Its owners, the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians, won approval from the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors last week for the newest agreement that would allow a resort on its existing gaming site, with up to 1,500 slots, a hotel with nearly 300 rooms and other benefits.
And there is one more Pomo tribe, the Koi Nation, that wants to develop a gaming resort outside of Windsor, a decision opposed by five Sonoma county tribes and the Board of Supervisors.