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Southern California tribe won't oppose Rohnert Park casino

  • Federal Indians of Graton Rancheria tribal chairman Greg Sarris speaks during an informational hearing of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee in the State Capitol on Tuesday. (JOHN BURGESS/ PD)

SACRAMENTO — The Sonoma County Indian tribe that wants to open a casino adjacent to Rohnert Park secured some significant — if not exactly enthusiastic — support Wednesday from a Southern California tribe that runs one of the state's largest casinos.

Speaking at an Assembly committee hearing, a lobbyist for the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in Riverside County said the tribe did not oppose an agreement that would allow the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria to open a 3,000-slot machine casino just west of Highway 101 behind the Scandia Family Fun Center.

“This is not a compact that we would have agreed to; every tribe is a sovereign nation. But we are not opposed to this compact,” said Paula Treat, referring to the agreement signed March 27 by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Officials with other tribes had suggested there would be widespread tribal opposition to the compact because it requires significantly more revenue sharing on the tribe's part than many earlier compacts.

The Assembly hearing was the second time in two days that lawmakers have reviewed the compact, which the Legislature and the federal Interior Department must ratify before the tribe can start work on the project. A Senate committee discussed it Tuesday.

Wednesday's hearing mostly reprised ground trodden Tuesday.

Opponents to the casino were mostly concerned about the environment; supporters argued it would create thousands of jobs and pump money into the North Bay economy while building financial health and stability to the 1,300-member tribe.

Some new information was revealed, including a federal requirement that is pressing the tribe to break ground soon.

The National Indian Gaming Commission's order of approval for the project requires it start during the dry season, April 15 to October 15, said Scott Nielson, executive vice president and chief development officer for Station Casinos, a Las Vegas company bankrolling the venture and has been advancing the tribe money.

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