s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe

Day 2 at the Graton Resort & Casino was very different from Day 1.

A day after thousands of people flocked to the $800 million casino's public debut, backing up Highway 101 and clogging Rohnert Park streets, traffic was moving smoothly Wednesday.

Thousands of visitors came and went as they pleased, rather than waiting at the casino's doors, slowly being metered in while more than 5,000 guests enjoyed themselves inside.

"We've had a nice steady flow of guests pouring in, certainly not resembling what we saw yesterday," said Lori Nelson, vice president of corporate communications for Station Casinos, which manages the gambling palace outside Rohnert Park.

"It's been been comfortable, very relaxed, and still very excited reactions by people seeing the venue," Nelson said.

The CHP had extra units patrolling in case of congestion problems, but Officer Kimberly Lemons characterized the day as, "smooth sailing."

On Tuesday, thousands of people attended the casino's debut and from morning through mid-afternoon Highway 101 was backed up — at one point to Highway 37. Streets around the casino were just as jammed.

The surprise arrival of 75 unscheduled tour buses full of gamblers added to Tuesday's gridlock, Nelson said. The casino floor was packed with shoulder-to-shoulder crowds.

Wednesday was considerably calmer. Inside the gambling hall, the frenetic, party-like atmosphere that lasted the entire opening day and well into the night had evened out.

At 9 a.m., the difference was stark. It appeared that fewer than half of the 3,000 slot machines were occupied while a smattering of people ate breakfast in the food court. Here and there, a vacuum was pushed around. There were perhaps 1,200 people inside, but in a 340,000 square foot casino that can appear like a small crowd.

On opening day at the same time, there had been about 3,000 people on the casino floor and that number quickly doubled.

Nelson said there was no official count of visitors to the casino Tuesday.

General Manager Joe Hasson said previously that he expected as many as 6,000 people to be in the casino at any one time throughout the day to gamble and eat.

A steady flow of vehicles made its way in to the parking lot Wednesday morning, disgorging enthusiastic patrons.

"This is amazing," said Brad Kirkpatrick, 72, the retired fire chief of Pope Valley in Napa County, gazing at the casino after he parked his car.

He and his wife, Jean Varner, 61, planned to eat breakfast and play some slots. Their daughter and granddaughter work at the casino, they said.

"It's created a lot of jobs," said Varner.

By evening, casino officials said that patrons were flowing in the door.

At 5 p.m., Nelson said: "It's a steady, robust crowd, but it's certainly not as deep as it was yesterday."

By other measures, the day was slower, too. Paramedics and firefighters stationed at the casino on opening day had 16 medical aid calls. Of those, seven people were taken to hospitals, according to a fire official's summary.

As of about 5 p.m. Wednesday there had been no medical calls, according to Sonoma County fire dispatch records.

The CHP has warned traffic congestion most likely will continue through the weekend and possibly into next week. Extra officers would be assigned to casino traffic through the weekend at least, Lemons said.