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River Rock Casino taking hit in wake of Graton casino opening

River Rock, Sonoma County's first tribal casino, has seen its revenues plummet since the opening of the Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park, forcing a significant reduction in employees along with cuts in payments and benefits to its tribal members.

The competition from Sonoma County's newest casino appears to be every bit as tough as River Rock and its owners, the Dry Creek Rancheria tribe, anticipated prior to Graton's debut in November.

Dry Creek Tribal Chairman Harvey Hopkins acknowledged the 12-year-old casino has seen more than the 30 percent drop in revenue that was anticipated prior to Graton's opening.

Although he declined to be more specific, other tribal officials indicated the situation was dire.

"Graton is knocking the crap out of us. Forty to 45 percent of our revenue is gone," one source with knowledge of the casino's finances said last week.

The last full year River Rock's casino revenue was publicly reported was in 2010, when it was $124 million.

Hopkins said approximately 100 employees have left River Rock — which once had more than 600 workers — to go to work at the bigger, glitzier Graton casino. "We're still looking at the possibility of not rehiring or filling those vacancies," he said Monday.

And the Dry Creek tribal government, which once had nearly 60 employees, is being reduced "by 70 percent," according to Hopkins.

"We've reduced staff down to a half-dozen people, maybe a little bit more," he said of the tribal employees who were in public works, information technology, human resources and finance.

Tribal members and families also are seeing a hit to their income.

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