No New Casinos in Sonoma County Until at Least 2035 … Probably

A binding agreement between the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians and Sonoma County that prohibits the tribe from building a casino on its 277-acre property south of Petaluma will be extended.

The agreement began in 2008 and was extended for 10 years in 2015. It will now be in place for another decade, through 2035, according to a statement released by the tribe. Sonoma County is just north of San Francisco. Santa Rosa is its county seat.

In exchange for signing the extension in 2015, the tribe avoided an estimated $33 million in environmental impact payments it would have been responsible for due to its casino in Geyserville, River Rock Casino.

According to reporting by the North Bay Business Journal, the Dry Creek Rancheria Band would rather invest to expand or improve River Rock Casino than pursue a second casino location. The money saved from avoiding the payments on impact from River Rock will apparently be used toward that effort, according to Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt.

Rock Rock Casino, about 23 miles north of Santa Rosa, currently offers guests more than 1,000 slot machines and 18 table games.

A call to the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians was not returned in time for this story.

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Future of Proposed Koi Nation Casino in Sonoma County Unknown

Land usage by the tribal nations in Sonoma County has long been contentious. Residents near what became River Rock Casino fought hard to halt the project, but to no avail. The facility opened in Geyserville in 2002, the first casino in Sonoma County.

A little over a decade later in 2013, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria opened Graton Casino & Resort in Rohnert Park. That casino is now the fifth-largest in California.

It appears county leaders seek to limit further casinos in the area. In 2022, the Sonoma Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to oppose a proposed casino by the Koi Nation of Northern California on a 68-acre site in unincorporated Sonoma County. The land is owned by the Koi, and is near “the Tribe’s historic lands,” according to the nation website. The Sonoma Board of Supervisors disagrees, calling the Koi a “non-Sonoma County tribe.”

The Koi propose to partner with the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma in the development of its proposed casino. The property would include 2,500 gaming machines, a 200-room hotel, six restaurants, a spa, and a conference center. According to the development plan, the casino resort would fit “seamlessly with the local environment.” The estimated price tag for a Koi Nation casino in Sonoma County is placed at $600 million.

Koi Nation was recognized by the federal government in 2019 following a lengthy court battle.

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How Koi Nation Plans Affect Dry Creek Rancheria Band

Part of the Dry Creek Rancheria Band’s 10-year agreement with Sonoma County is that, if the federal government sides with the Koi Nation and puts the 68 acres into the tribe’s trust to build its casino, the Dry Creek Rancheria Band will be allowed to pull out of the agreement and put the Petaluma property into its trust for gaming purposes before 2035.

Last year, Koi Nation and the Dry Creek Rancheria Band were among the many California tribes that supported Prop 26. The measure would have permitted sports betting at California Indian casinos in the state. That ballot initiative failed.

A second ballot measure, Prop 27, would have allowed online sports betting via sportsbooks like BetMGM and DraftKings. It also failed in November. The future of sports betting in California is uncertain.

About the Author

Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is a writer and contributor for California Casinos with plenty of experience under his belt. Dan has written three books about sports and previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. Currently, Dan is residing in Michigan with his family.