The Graton Resort & Casino is expected to bring in about $533 million in annual gambling revenues within two years, according to a report prepared for its Las Vegas backer. Others say that's too optimistic.


A copy of it became public in August 2012 when Station Casinos submitted it to Rohnert Park as part of its unsuccessful bid to build and operate a new city-owned digital advertising sign on Highway 101.

The report analyzes potential customers by their distance from the casino, their income, their likelihood of visiting it, their likelihood of visiting more than once, and the amount of money each is expected to leave behind per visit.

In the casino's second full year of operations, the report says, Sonoma County residents will visit it 1.5 million times, generating $103 million in gambling revenues, nearly a fifth of the expected total annual income.

Much of the overall revenues are expected to come from Oakland, San Francisco and Marin County, says the report. It is projected that residents from those areas will visit the casino 2.7 million times during its second year, generating $248 million in gambling revenues.

The $800 million casino will get 195,000 visitors from the Sacramento area, the report says; 930,000 visits from residents of the East Bay outside Oakland; and smaller numbers from the Stockton and Yuba City areas. San Jose is projected to generate 361,000 casino visits and $41 million in revenue.

By its fifth year, the casino will bring in $576 million in gambling revenue, the report projects, although at least one expert believes the projections are on the high side.

The report focuses solely on gambling and does not address ancillary revenues, such as those from food or alcohol sales, entertainment events, or from a hotel planned for the site.

The report says the Rohnert Park casino will capture the overwhelming share of local casino patrons: 89 percent of the projected 1.68 million visits to all casinos by Sonoma County residents in its second full year.

That scenario runs dramatically counter to predictions by Graton Rancheria Chairman Greg Sarris and several other analysts who have said that there is plenty for everyone to share. Officials with the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo, which owns River Rock Casino in Geyserville, have said they fear losses of 30 percent of revenue.

The Graton casino's projected income of more than half a billion dollars would rank it high among the country's most lucrative gambling markets.

According to the American Gaming Association, the Reno/Sparks commercial gambling market, with more than 25 casinos, is the country's 16th largest. It collected a combined $644 million in annual revenue in 2012.

Total gambling revenues for all 68 tribal casinos in California in 2011 were $6.9 billion, according to the latest Indian Gaming Industry Report.

One Las Vegas gaming expert says the report overshoots by overly discounting the competing casinos in its market, particularly those in the Sacramento area, including Thunder Valley Casino Resort, which Station Casinos managed until 2010.

"I think ($533 million) is a pretty big number; I think it's high," said William Thompson, an emeritus University of Nevada Las Vegas professor who taught the business of casino gaming for thirty years.

"They would have to have access to a lot of people who don't have another casino to go to," he said.

Several pages of the report were omitted. Those included analyses of competitor casinos Thunder Valley, Cache Creek, River Rock, Red Hawk and the San Pablo Lytton Casino.

Station Casinos officials declined to provide the missing pages. Innovation Group officials would not comment on the report, which was prepared while Station Casinos and the tribe were seeking financing for the project.

The report draws four concentric rings around Rohnert Park, broken down by 30-minute travel increments. The outer circle, representing a two-hour drive time, includes the Sacramento and San Jose metropolitan areas.

The key elements of the report calculate the propensity of residents within the market area to gamble, and the frequency they would do so. Equally essential to the conclusions are projections of how much each gambler loses per visit, an amount that the industry terms the "win."

The report projects that 98 percent of its gambling revenue in its second year — or $522.9 million — will come from Northern California visitors who will spend $87 a visit. The remainder will come from a higher win of $108 per visit from tourists to Sonoma County who also stop at the casino, the report projects. The average win for Las Vegas Strip casinos is $70, Thompson said.

The report breaks down the revenue in another way, too: by win per day from each position, meaning places that can be occupied by a gambler, one at a time at a slot machine, and five or six at a table game.

By that calculation, in its second year, the casino will bring in $392 per position per day. That figure rises to $425 a position by the casino's fifth year of operation, when gambling revenues are projected at $576 million.

You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or