Dry Creek tribe eyes Petaluma site for housing, sports

A 277-acre parcel south of Petaluma owned by the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo once was considered as a second casino site.

But recently the tribe, which operates River Rock casino near Geyserville, unveiled plans for a housing and public sports complex on the land east of Kastania Road, insisting it's dropped plans for another casino.

With the scheduled opening in November of the Graton Rancheria's casino in Rohnert Park, the site south of Petaluma might seem an attractive spot for Dry Creek to leapfrog closer to the Bay Area to build a new casino.

But tribal leaders say otherwise.

"It's not a benefit to Dry Creek at this point to leapfrog," said Dry Creek Chairman Harvey Hopkins, who said that to compete the tribe would have to take on debt approaching the $800 million borrowed by Graton.

With revenue sharing that would be required with local cities and county government to mitigate impacts of the gambling facility, as well as casino management fees, that could easily mean "50 percent of your money is going to other governments besides your own. It doesn't make sense," Hopkins said.

Dry Creek already is indebted about $170 million to bondholders for its existing casino near Geyserville.

South Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt and Petaluma Mayor David Glass say they appreciate that the tribe now plans a non-casino development. But they also want to more assurances, especially if city water and sewer services are to be extended to the property to help with the tribe's plans.

Because of the impact Graton will have on River Rock, the elected officials said they aren't convinced a casino would not be proposed south of Petaluma.

"In the background is always the veiled threat of a casino that I feel in order for us to come together and be partners on any proposal, the casino needs to be totally eliminated from potential on that site," Rabbitt said.

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