Sonoma County officials approve Dry Creek tribe casino project

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors gave the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians approval on March 1 to construct a $300 million luxury tribal casino resort on the current River Rock Casino near Geyserville.

The gaming venue will replace the tribe-owned River Rock Casino and be built on the property located in the Alexandria Valley.

Since the Graton Casino Resort in Rohnert Park was launched in 2013, River Rock casino has suffered financially. The casino is owned by Federated Band of Graton Rancheria and is the largest gaming venue in Northern California. It cuts down on visits to River Rock via the Bay Area.

Graton Rancheria is also making plans to expand its gaming section significantly and build another hotel tower. The already troubled River Rock casino will face even more issues once these new additions are completed. However, the new casino could seriously threaten Graton’s grasp on the local gaming market after completion.

In a statement to the board, Dry Creek Rancheria president Chris Wright revealed that the tribe looked forward to working with the government in the future.

“I think we’ve come up with an MOA (memorandum of agreement) that is fair to the tribe and fair to the county. I look forward to a government to government relationship going forward,” Wright said.

River Rock Casino consists of a 60,000-square-foot gaming hall with 1,200 slot machines. The new casino resort will have a gaming hall of approximately the same size but with 300 more slot machines. It will also have a 300-room hotel, a spa, a wedding chapel, and several other amenities.

Per the terms of the agreement, the Dry Creek Rancheria tribe was expected to pay $750,000 to the county annually for at least four years after the project was completed. When the time elapses, a 2% annual increase will be required. However, no matter the revenue reeled in, the amounts paid each year will not exceed $1.5 million.

The current plans for the casino project are a compromise between Sonoma County and the tribe. Several parties are against the casino expansion, including the Alexander Valley Association, which represents the county’s families, businesses, and farmers.

Karin Warnelius-Miller, the association’s president, revealed that they were incensed by the expansion and had no intentions of standing down. The association has been part of some previous negotiations.

In 2008 the Dry Creeks tribe proposed to build an 88,000-square-foot casino with around 3,000 poker machines and a hotel with 600 rooms but altered its plans. They also decided to forestall the building of another gaming venue on the property located in Petaluma, at least until 2032.

According to an earlier agreement with the state, the tribe was permitted to construct another casino in Sonoma County. They agreed to push back the project for around 10 years, and in return, the Sonoma County officials would forgo the 2020 and 2021 annual $750,000 revenue payment required from the tribe.

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