The new gaming compact giving the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria the right to open a Las Vegas-style casino resort outside Rohnert Park pushes the relationship between the state's tribes and its local governments into untested territory.
That has roiled the Indian gaming community across California, where some fear it gives local governments too much sway over casino projects.
"This compact is a complete and total abrogation of tribal sovereignty," said Michael Lombardi, chairman of the Augus-tine Band of Cahuilla Indians' gaming commission, in Riverside County.
"The Graton Rancheria people traded their sovereignty for dollars," he said.
Government officials, meanwhile, praise the compact as a hard-won victory. They say it recognizes sovereign Indian rights, but also gives local governments the means to address a casino's impacts on their community.
"It is historic," said Lori Norton, Sonoma County deputy administrator. "We're hoping it is the model that represents where we're moving towards in these compacts."
Most significantly, the compact between Gov. Jerry Brown and the 1,300-member tribe requires the Graton Rancheria to reach additional agreements with Sonoma County and Rohnert Park to alleviate impacts that include increased traffic, the need for added public safety resources and removal of open space.
"It's still being thrust on us," Supervisor David Rabbitt said of the casino. But he considers the compact "historic in the amount of dollars being assigned to local impacts."
Graton Rancheria officials have refused to discuss the compact since it was announced at the end of March, or their plans for the casino and resort, which would be the county's largest employer.
After repeated attempts to reach him by phone and by email since the compact was announced March 30, tribal chairman Greg Sarris last week called a reporter and said the tribe doesn't talk to the press, and then shouted, "You don't talk to any of us, punk," and hung up. A later call to him seeking comment was not returned.
The agreement governing the financial benefits and other accommodations the tribe must make with Rohnert Park and the county is especially important because of the casino's proximity to the city, off Highway 101 just west of Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Scandia.
The Nevada-style project would have 3,000 slot machines and a 200-room, two-story hotel that would rank it among the state's eight largest casinos.
It would be bigger than the 2,300-slot Cache Creek Casino and Resort in rural Yolo County — now the closest large-scale casino/resort to the Bay Area. That destination casino, about 12 miles east of Interstate 505 north of Winters, has a low-rise, 200-room hotel, equivalent to the number of rooms proposed for the Rohnert Park complex.
The Thunder Valley Casino, located about two miles from the outskirts of Lincoln northeast of Sacramento, has 2,800 slots and a 17-story, 300-room hotel.
In comparison, the River Rock Casino in Geyserville has about 1,250 slots. The Dry Creek Pomo tribe four years ago shelved plans for a $300 million Tuscan-themed complex that would have included a permanent casino and 255-room hotel.
If completed, the Rohnert Park casino would draw gamblers and entertainment-seekers from around the region, adding to traffic on the county's roads while also bringing more than 2,000 permanent jobs, according to environmental reports and tribal estimates.
Compacts have evolved