This week, a top official with the Cloverdale Rancheria said that the tribe may downsize the scale of its plans to build a $230 million casino resort complex in northern California.
On April 29, the 540-member Cloverdale Rancheria of Pomo Indians was granted approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for 62 acres of land to be set aside as its reservation. The approval cleared the way for the tribe’s pursuit of the casino resort project, almost a decade in the making, to build a casino on what is now its reservation in Sonoma County.
However, in addition to the Dry Creek Band of Pomo Indian’s 14-year-old River Rock Casino near Geyserville, in the eight-year interim, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria opened its 534,000-square-foot Graton Resort & Casino about 38 miles away next to Rohnert Park on Nov 5, 2013. And have almost completed a $175 million 200-room hotel and convention center due to open in the fall, causing the Cloverdale Rancheria to reevaluate its own efforts.
The tribe’s original plans in 2008 called for a facility similar to the River Rock Casino. But a 575,600 square foot facility, along with a 244-room hotel, 1,300-seat entertainment hall, 984-seat convention center, and 3,500 parking spaces, might not be feasible now. The Press Democrat was told by the administrator for the Cloverdale Rancheria, Vicky Macias, “For us to come in and build something that big, we don’t know if economically it’s in the best interests of the tribe financially,” and that she thinks those plans are now off the table. Macias said that a casino on its newly designated sovereign land is likely to be more modest than that of the Graton Rancheria.
A gaming compact must still be obtained from Governor Jerry Brown for the casino, but the tribe has yet to begin negotiations, according to its administrator. The Legislature must also ratify the compact.
The tribe may also be facing additional roadblocks, namely from Sonoma County supervisors, who may decide to challenge the BIA’s action to place the 62 acres into federal trust, which would make it subject to state and local authority. It may also have a difficult time financing a major casino resort since a majority of the patrons would have to bypass the Graton complex, which is within 40 miles to the south, as well as the River Rock Casino in Alexander Valley.
It took 13 years for the Graton casino to open once Congress restored the tribe to federal recognition. It took another six years after that for the environmental review process.