Sonoma Co. reaches casino agreement

March 18, 2008 7:42:25 PM PDT
Amidst all the rusticity in Sonoma County's Alexander Valley, there is, on the hill, one recent addition that, for old timers, just doesn't fit.

"I mean you vote like you're supposed to vote, and you take what you get. I got a casino across from my house," says Alexander Valley resident Joan Robbins.

The River Rock Casino, for now, is a tent and a parking structure, but not for long. On Tuesday, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors reached agreement with the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians for a permanent casino and 600-room hotel.

'Every time you meet with a sovereign nation you have this deal with a jurisdiction issue." says tribal chairman Harvey Hopkins

As part of the deal, the tribe will pay Sonoma county $100 million dollars in fees and taxes during the next twelve years. The board's action is significant in light of two other proposed Indian gaming projects.

Supervisor Tim Smith was the lone no vote.

"The county has taken a strong position and opposition against Indian gaming. I believe that this is an example what can happen. Build a casino first, and negotiate later," says Smith

One of the concerns is a nearby winding road, and drunk drivers who might try to touse it. To make the deal happen, the casino agreed to serve only beer and wine and to build a second road for emergencies.

Ultimately, that liquor concession played a big role in convincing the influential Alexander Valley Association, which backed Tuesday's agreement, resignedly.

"We can't do anything about sovereignty, we can't do anything about gambling, so we worked hard to do something that we could do something about," says Alexander Valley Association President Katie Murphy.

The tribe hopes to begin construction on its first phase by the end of this year.