Detractors Discuss Sonoma County Casino Proposal At Hearing

Written By Dan Holmes on September 28, 2023 - Last Updated on September 29, 2023
Photo of the land a proposed Sonoma County casino would sit on.

A proposed casino project in Santa Rosa was discussed in a virtual public hearing hosted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs this week.

More than four dozen attendees logged on to discuss topics related to the environmental impact of a casino resort in Sonoma County that would be owned by the Koi Nation of Northern California.

The $600 million Northern California Shiloh Resort and Casino project was proposed in 2021 after the Koi Nation purchased 68 acres near Santa Rosa.

The project has faced a great deal of opposition, mainly from tribes owning casinos in the region and county officials and residents.

Online speakers variously referred to the Koi project, and to the environmental assessment that downplayed its impacts, as “ludicrous,” “mind boggling,” “ridiculous” and “a joke,” according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, raising concerns including traffic, noise, crime, property values and the effect on the local water table.

Chickasaw Nation would operate casino resort

There are 41 casinos in Northern California. Native American tribes own and operate all of them.

Wednesday’s hearing allowed the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to field questions and comments on the environmental impact, mitigation measures and project alternatives. A 211-page environmental report on the area known as the Shiloh neighborhood was at the center of the discussion.

“Tonight’s hearing is not required by federal law,” Dino Beltran, vice chairman of the Koi Nation, said according to the Press-Democrat. “But the nation believed it is important for the public to have the opportunity to put its views on record.”

According to the Koi Nation, the facility would employ 2,000 people and encompass as much as 1.2 million square feet. The casino would reportedly include 2,500 slot machines, table games, as many as six restaurants, a spa, conference center and a 200-room hotel according to plans put forward in 2021.

A slick animated video narrated by Peter Coyote illustrates the breadth of its proposal.

Koi Nation are descendent from the peoples of the Southeastern Pomo tribes that inhabited Northern California for thousands of years. The tribe has suffered a difficult history, starting with its federal recognition in 1916. Disease and poverty, as well as land disputes in Sonoma County, have challenged the Koi. Current membership is less than 100, many of whom are poor.

Based in Santa Rosa, the Koi Nation has apparently entered into a development and investment deal with Global Gaming Solutions. It is owned by Chickasaw Nation, which is based in Oklahoma. GGS and Chickasaw would operate the proposed Santa Rosa casino for the Koi Nation.

Opposition against the project is strong

Opponents are many for the proposed gaming facility and resort in the Shiloh neighborhood. A neighborhood association is opposed, as are at least three tribes, including Graton Rancheria and Dry Creek Rancheria, both of which operate casinos in the region.

More than a year ago, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors unanimously came out against the project.

The Santa Rosa region has three current casinos.

  • River Rock Casino in Geyserville: Operated by the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians
  • Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park: Owned by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria
  • Twin Pine Casino & Hotel in Middletown: Operated by the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians

Ultimately, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland will make the final decision on the proposal.

There are alternate development plans

According to the BIA, officials have put together at least three alternate proposals. Two of them would reduce the footprint of the resort by half or one-third. Another would relocate the casino to an area far away from the Shiloh neighborhood.

Also at stake is whether Interior will grant a Koi Nation request to designate the land as sovereign tribal property. If so, federal guarantees would kick in, giving the Koi Nation more rights on the land.

Interested California residents who did not have an opportunity to log on to the hearing can submit written comments/questions through Oct. 27 to [email protected].

Photo by Provided by Koi Nation of Northern California
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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is a contributor for PlayCA with plenty of experience under his belt. Dan has written three books about sports and previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. He also has extensive experience covering the launch of sports betting in other states, including Ohio, Massachusetts and Maryland. Currently, Dan is residing in Michigan with his family.

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