Governor grants gaming compact for Rohnert Park casino

  • Field at the corner of Labath Ave. and Wilfred Ave in Rohnert Park, March 30, 2012. Site of newly approved casino.

The Indian casino-resort proposed for the outskirts of Rohnert Park cleared a crucial hurdle Friday, securing the state compact it needed before construction can start.

Gov. Jerry Brown's signature on a gaming contract was one of the final governmental agreements that the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria needed before moving ahead with the controversial $433 million project.

It could have up to 3,000 slot machines, 5,500 parking spaces, a 200-room hotel and restaurants and bars. If built to completion, it would become Sonoma County's largest private employer and one of its most costly developments.

The project, to be built just west of the Scandia Family Fun Center, also would be the closest full-service casino to the entire Bay Area. No details were available Friday about a building schedule.

The 274-page compact outlines casino earnings that could rise above $400 million a year, spotlighting how it might transform the lives of the tribe's roughly 1,300 members.

Tribal chairman Greg Sarris, who called local officials Friday to tell them the news, did not return phone calls or an email seeking comment.

But one of the tribe's most prominent supporters said that casino profits could revive the longterm prospects of the tribe's Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo Indians.

"Let's just hope that this really improves their lives," said Connie Codding, majority shareholder of one of the county's biggest development companies. "That's what we're all hoping for, that it will enable their children to get a better education and a better life."

For opponents, including local legislators and community activists who have fought the casino for more than a decade, there was a sense the battle is now likely lost.

"I think we have to honestly say that the odds are pretty long against stopping it," said Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.

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