Federal officials and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have recently approved a plan to take 62 acres of land in Sonoma County into trust for the Cloverdale Rancheria of Pomo Indians, a 540 member band of Indians who in 1993 had the tribes federal recognition restored. The tribe has expressed a desire to use this land for economic development, and these plans have continued to unfold and develop over the span of the last nine years.
Major plans for this land includes development of a 575,600 sq ft casino, a resort complex, a 244 room (5 story) hotel, an entertainment center, and a convention center. Total cost of this massive complex are estimated to be around $320 million. There have also been several smaller plans suggested previous to this one. These past plans have included a smaller 150,000 sq ft casino without a hotel or convention center, as well as a complex of office, retail, and industrial units (and no casino at all). In order for the tribe to see these plans come to fruition, there are many obstacles that the tribe must overcome.
One of the obstacles this potential casino faces is the region is already overcrowded with casinos. There are two other major casinos within Sonoma County (Graton Resort And Casino and River Rock Casino). There are also eleven other smaller casinos in the neighboring counties of Mendocino and Lake County. Many of the potential patrons to the proposed casino would be passing other casinos on the way to this one. Because of this abundance of similar facilities in the area, many members of the surrounding communities are protesting the new casino and accompanying complex.
Another barrier the tribe faces to accomplishing the goal of erecting this casino is financing. In the past, the tribe expressed an interest in a partnership with a Native American corporation called Sealaska. This partnership would split the obligations of financing, managing the business, and buying the land between the tribe and the corporation. The chairman for the Sonoma County Board Of Supervisors has stated intent to make sure the community is protected from bearing any of the cost of the proposed casino.
Yet another hardship faced by the tribe is that the Sonoma County supervisors could potentially challenge the action of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to place the 62 acres of land into federal trust. If this happens, the land in question would be subject to local and state authorities.
The tribe has also yet to obtain a gaming compact for the casino. The gaming compact would be issued by Governor Jerry Brown. Gaming compacts are necessary between local and tribal governments because they allow for negotiated business agreements and cooperation between the two governing authorities. In addition to obtaining this compact from the Governor, it must also be ratified by the Legislature. The negotiations for this gaming compact have yet to begin.
Because of these barriers, the tribe has considered downsizing plans for the casino to a smaller resort and complex costing approximately $230 million. Without the downsizing, the plan may not be in the best interest of the tribe economically or financially.
With regard to planning for this project, the Cloverdale Rancheria of Pomo Indians have communicated a desire to work with the community and local government on a plan that would ultimately decide the size of the proposed casino and resort. The local government, however, has expressed concerns about being kept in the dark about any potential plans for the casino the tribe has, as well as being ignored when concerns about the matter are brought to the attention of the tribe.