A new casino is coming to California wine country. While the construction timeline is still up in the air, the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians received long-awaited approval from the county’s Board of Supervisors to build a tribal casino resort in Sonoma County.
The new California casino will be located on the site of the tribe’s current casino, River Rock, in the Alexander Valley.
Obstacles in 2008
During a meeting on Feb. 28, the supervisors voted 4-1 to approve an agreement that replaced one made between the tribe and the county in 2008 regarding new construction. The first agreement included numerous conditions and amendments that the tribe did not like. Dry Creek Rancheria chairman Chris Wright told the Press Democrat that the original deal “was too cumbersome” and was detrimental to the tribe’s sovereignty. Dry Creek Rancheria would have had to pay the county $3.5 million per year to cover associated public services and pay hefty fees if the payment was late.
According to Sonoma County, the casino’s plans in the previous agreement included “an 88,000-square foot casino, a 600-room hotel and related restaurant, retail, and hospitality facilities, as well as conference and entertainment venues.” However, the tribe never began construction on the project because it could not secure adequate financing.
In addition, Dry Creek Rancheria faced steep competition from Graton Resort and Casino, operated by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria in nearby Rohnert Park. Graton opened in 2013 and is the largest casino in the county with 3,000 slots, over 100 card tables, a poker room, and a luxury hotel with 200 rooms. It also advertises heavily in the Bay area with frequent TV ads and prominent billboards along major roadways around San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.
Last April, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria announced plans to expand the casino floor, build a new five-story addition to its hotel, and add several other amenities.
The New Dry Creek Rancheria Agreement
Dry Creek Rancheria submitted a “Reduced-Size Casino & Resort Project” to appease the county’s supervisors before the February vote. The now-approved project will be an “approximately 60,000 square foot casino with a maximum of 1,500 Class III slot machines and 25 table games, a hotel with less than 300 rooms, with spa, salon and fitness room, restaurants, food court, a multi-function event center, and a wedding chapel.”
The tribe must pay the county at least $750,000 annually from 2023 to 2043 to “offset cost of county services.”
The tribe’s current casino, River Rock, has 1,000 slot machines and 18 tables and no hotel.
As of March 2023, there is no timeline for constructing the new casino.
Opposition to Casinos in Sonoma County
In addition to the lone dissenting vote from the Board of Supervisors, there is opposition to Dry Creek Rancheria’s plans from area residents. Members of the Alexander Valley Association told the Press Democrat that the county didn’t do enough to include residents in the talks with the tribe.
Dry Creek Rancheria is not the only tribe trying to build an additional casino in the county. Koi Nation also wants to build a casino in Windsor, but the project is currently in limbo due to opposition from the board of supervisors, residents, and the other tribes in the county.