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Rohnert Park signs new casino revenue-sharing deal, gets $40 million more


Rohnert Park and the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria have agreed to a new revenue-sharing deal worth $40 million more than one they signed in 2003. The agreement is intended to more fully address the impacts of the casino the tribe is now building.

Artist's rendering of Graton Resort & Casino. (Courtesy Rendering)

Artist’s rendering of Graton Resort & Casino. (Courtesy Rendering)

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the new agreement. Should the casino’s earnings meet projections, the tribe is to pay $251 million to the city over 20 years for public safety, education, traffic improvements and other services.

“We have to hope it will be successful,” Councilman Amy Ahanotu said of the 3,000-slot machine casino, projected to open late this year. “The city will also benefit.”

The most significant new addition to the agreement is an annual $2,369,000 payment to the city “to mitigate potential impacts” from the casino.

The document says the city intends to use the money in part for staffing to cope with impacts on public safety and other unspecified city services.

It also says the tribe will pay $3.75 million for a new public safety building west of Highway 101; the previous deal was for $2.25 million.

Council members who long have opposed the casino lauded both the new agreement and the tribe.

“This is even better than the last one, and I thought the last one was outstanding,” Vice-Mayor Joe Callinan said, referring to the 2003 agreement, which promised the city $211 million over 20 years.

“I never thought I’d say this,” Mayor Pam Stafford said, “but the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria could not have been more responsible . . . I really, really appreciate this.”

Officials from the tribe were not present at Tuesday’s meeting.

The impetus for renegotiating the deal was twofold, city officials said: First, the original agreement envisioned the casino being at Stony Point Road and Rohnert Park Expressway, rather than its current 66-acre site on Wilfred Avenue. Also, the new site is on land the city once planned to annex, which means it will lose tax revenue it had banked on.

The revised agreement “was going to have to be done, at the very least to amend the project site location, but along with that there were obviously other issues we needed to address,” City Manager Gabe Gonzalez said.

He said that the old agreement would have been binding despite being built around a different casino site. But opponents of the project, who continue to challenge it in court, suggested the tribe had a pressing interest in renegotiating a new deal.

“A valid (agreement), which the 2003 one is not, is an essential precondition to the casino opening. It is required by the compact,” said attorney Mike Healy, who filed a lawsuit to stop the project.

“If the council voted this down, it would be a huge problem for the casino,” said Healy, who is also a Petaluma councilman and was not at the meeting.

The state and the Graton Rancheria last year signed an agreement, or compact, that allows the tribe to operate a Las Vegas-style casino on its reservation. But a condition of the compact stipulated the tribe and Rohnert Park have a revenue-sharing mitigation deal in place.

As part of the lawsuit, in which the Stop the Casino 101 coalition is a plaintiff, Healy argued that because the 2003 agreement described a different site, it was invalid, and therefore the tribe should not be allowed to open the casino.

The council’s Tuesday action appears to render moot that piece of the lawsuit, which goes to trial Aug. 2 and also challenges the tribe’s sovereignty over its 254-acre reservation.

The tribe and its Las Vegas partner, Station Casinos, have appeared to hopscotch other requirements without sanction. They started construction before the federal government approved the compact, and also before the tribe and Sonoma County reached a revenue-sharing agreement, which the compact also mandated.

Callinan cautioned that the influx of money — the city expects a $2.66 million payment by this summer — is to address casino impacts, not bolster Rohnert Park’s overall and still-precarious fiscal condition.

“This is not for that,” he said sternly.

You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com.

12 Responses to “Rohnert Park signs new casino revenue-sharing deal, gets $40 million more”

  1. Dan Drummond Sr says:

    A new casino treaty. In most cases these treaties are in extremely disadvantageous terms to the native people, who often do not appreciate the implications of what they are signing. There’s no gambling like politics.

    There is a very easy way to return from a casino with a small fortune: go there with a large one. ~Jack Yelton

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  2. Follower says:

    All the same rhetoric used in opposition to the River Rock Casino has been used to oppose this Casino. NONE… of those awful predictions came true there, nor will they here.

    Imagine how different the debate would sound had we allowed the NAACP to build Casinos as reparations for slavery rather than Indian tribes.

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  3. pete says:

    How much money do they think this thing will make? There is no way they would give even half of the profits to the city of RP, that means they are banking on making at the very least 500mil over the next ten years, off of us and other citizens, yikes

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  4. Pat Reece says:

    It all depends on the fools who waste there money in the casino. They are counting on lots of them. Best way to fight the casino is dont go.

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  5. Paul says:

    David Stubblebline: HP actually CREATED SOMETHING. They had a PRODUCT. It produced some POSITIVE RESULTS. What you’re getting with Station House is a big NEGATIVE. IF you can defend gambling as somehow productive, show me how. Oh, that’s right, some whores will be working. And some pimps. And some drug dealers. And the pawn shop will be busy. That’s not a world I want to visit, let alone live in.

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  6. Paul says:

    It might be “Rodent Park” (the finest farm land in Sonoma County, covered with tract homes) on the east side, but from 2013 on, west of 101 it’s THE GRATON RANCHERIA or as the locals call it, “The Reservation”. But you don’t need a reservation, just bring plenty of cash. Station House needs the bucks.
    The Graton Rancheria will soon look like Satan builds Disneyland for adults; i’m talking the entire area around it. Hey, WHERE WILL THE PAWN SHOP BE LOCATED? Throw in hookers, pimps, drug dealers and the flat out gambling addicted, it’s not going to be some place you want to take the kiddies. Nah, leave them over at Scandia, on the Reservation border line, hwy 101.

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  7. David says:

    You know the MOU can’t be legally enforced? You know that outside audits are not permitted? The RP City Council and the Public Safety department have made a deal with the devil and both deserve all of the scorn and disdain heaped on them.

    The RP City Council wouldn’t work with State Farm to expand their facilities in RP and all of those jobs moved to Bakersfield. I guess the “Tribe” pays the City Council better.

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  8. David Stubblebine says:

    When Hewlett-Packard wanted to come to Sonoma County, Rohnert Park actively wooed them and successfully brought a major employer to the region. At the time, this was correctly seen as a major coup for the city as well as the county. For the time HP had its run here, it worked out handsomely for all concerned. Now, with HP gone and jobs even more scarce, another major employer wants to open its doors just outside the city and Rohnert Park is somehow the villain for working with them? … for negotiating vastly more mitigations from this new employer than they ever got from HP? Remember too that the city would not be able to stop the casino’s opening even if it wanted to. Except for Jake inviting the casino to Rohnert Park in the first place, how can the City be the bad guy here?

    At this point, the question of “Do we want a casino?” or “Do we not want a casino?” is wholly irrelevant to the issue of how the City works with the Tribe.

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  9. Grapevines says:

    Another city administration being bought lock, stock, and barrel by big money. Forget the people they were elected to represent, whatever the casino wants in the future, the casino gets.

    Sounds just like the trouble the rest of California is in. Sacramento, Stockton, Vallejo, who’s next?? Sonoma County isn’t far behind.

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  10. Leslie says:

    Looks like Station Casinos is the “Westpoint” of “Money Warfare”!

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  11. James Bennett says:

    I think’deals’ were made long ago.

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  12. David says:

    In breaking news, the RP City council has announce the sale of the naming rights for the City to the “Tribe”. Rohnert Park will now be called Graton Rancheria. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed but rumors are the deal was for around $100. Congratulations to the council for selling their souls to the “Tribe”.

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