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Casino Location Impacts Long-Term Success

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The phrase “location, location, location” is a widely recognized motto in the real estate industry. Tribal casinos, especially in California, have a significant impact on the state’s gambling industry, alongside card rooms.

The Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park, California, has had a significant effect on the River Rock Casino located on the Dry Creek Rancheria, making it a clear example of this situation. The River Rock Casino is located approximately six miles west of the Geyserville, California, exit on U.S. Highway 101. It can be reached by traveling on a two-lane road and ascending a short driveway to the summit of a hill that provides a scenic view of the Alexander Valley wine district. Although the location provides breathtaking vistas, accessing it is challenging. Nevertheless, it remained the sole casino in its designated service region for a duration of 12 years. Consequently, its geographical position held little importance until the inauguration of the Graton casino in November of last year.

The Alexander Valley is a highly productive grape-growing region in California and is renowned for producing some of the world’s finest wines. The landowners formed the Alexander Valley Association (“AVA”) in the past, and this group has served as a significant and efficient advocate for the landowners in the valley and their main industry. Upon Dry Creek’s initial announcement of its casino development plans, the AVA leadership promptly acknowledged the problematic nature of the Rancheria location for several reasons. Of utmost concern was the potential for significant traffic congestion within the serene community of Geyserville, as well as the challenging accessibility for both vehicles and large trucks tasked with servicing the casino along the narrow two-lane road and uphill journey to the Rancheria. The AVA proposed that the casino be situated along Highway 101 and specified potential areas that are not on tribal land. The Tribe desired to establish its casino project within the Rancheria’s limits. Consequently, the project was constructed on the Rancheria hill, necessitating the implementation of water and sewer services. Additionally, a substantial construction endeavor was undertaken to stabilize the hill, enabling the construction of the casino facilities. The process of stabilizing the hill incurred an extra expense of $15 million for the Tribe and its partners.

Geyserville is located around 30 miles north of the Graton casino in Rohnert Park. This means that the Graton casino is more easily accessible to those in the densely populated districts of Marin County and San Francisco to the south. The Graton casino Goldsbet online and resort has numerous options for drinking and dining, including multiple restaurants established by renowned chefs from the Bay area. Additionally, the resort features a hotel and a wide range of gaming stations spread across the grounds. Patrons of Graton save a minimum of 40 minutes of driving time each way on the multi-lane U.S. Highway 101, which is right adjacent to the establishment.

The influence of Graton on River Rock has been substantial. It emphasizes the importance of considering the three crucial factors of “location, location, location” when incorporating casino growth into long-term planning.

Before the Graton grand opening in November, the Dry Creek Pomo tribe had exclusive control over gaming in the area for 12 years. They also possessed the nearest Highway 101 gaming facility to Marin County and San Francisco. At that time, the casino was highly successful, allowing the Tribe to distribute per capita payments of $600 per month to each of its 640 tribal members, who had previously faced limited economic opportunities. The financial data available for 2010 indicates that River Rock recorded revenues of $124 million and had a workforce of over 600 employees. The Tribe had almost 60 permanent employees.

Nevertheless, periods of triumph and success are not perpetual. Ever since the Graton casino was established, the earnings of the River Rock casino have experienced a downturn. Tribal authorities assert that their income has decreased by 30 percent. It has been claimed that the actual decline is larger. Regardless, over 100 employees from River Rock have relocated to Graton, resulting in a significant decrease in indigenous employment from 60 to only a few staff members. Furthermore, the current per capita payments are significantly lower compared to their levels just a few months ago.

The Tribe is further burdened by economic difficulties due to a report indicating that it has an outstanding debt of $150 million payable to bondholders.

The Dry Creek Pomo tribe is currently revoking the membership of some individuals. One of the disenrolled members of Dry Creek is the former Tribal Chair who supervised the planning, construction, and advancement of River Rock. A recent announcement has been made regarding another round of expulsions, and it has been revealed that the two daughters of the previous Tribal Chair will be among the next 75 individuals to be removed from the group. A decrease in the number of tribe members usually results in higher per capita payments for the remaining members. This is a recurring behavior that has been observed in multiple tribes facing financial difficulties in their casino operations.

As previously said, the 12-year period was highly prosperous for both the casino and the Tribe. Nevertheless, the inexorable emergence of competition has materialized. A smaller tribal casino is being planned for Cloverdale, about 9.5 miles north of Geyserville and adjacent to Highway 101. This development will be in addition to the existing Graton casino to the south on Highway 101. The volatility of a location’s desirability highlights the importance of thoroughly evaluating potential future competition and selecting the optimal site for a casino construction.

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