Crowds pack Graton Casino on opening day


The casino, which was a project 10 years in the making, is still being contested, with at least one court case still pending. But they are arguments Tribal Chairman Greg Sarris has heard before.

He spent $800 million dollars on the building, has hired 2000 people to fill it, and pledged millions of revenue dollars back to the state.

Mostly, Sarris says, this is for his people.

"Whenever I felt hurt, I thought of what my ancestors went through and it was easy," he said. "I was not bring raped or murdered or any of those things."

The new casino has 3,000 slot machines, close to 150 gaming tables and 13 restaurants.

California has more than 60 Native American casinos that produced about $6.9 billion in revenue in 2011, according to a recent report about the industry by economist Alan Meister. Revenue grew by about 1.6 percent in 2011 after three years of declines, Casino City's Indian Gaming Report showed. Graton is 30 miles south of River Rock Casino, also in Sonoma County. There also are several large Native American casinos in the Sacramento region. For the 1,300-member Graton Rancheria tribe, the casino comes after years of lobbying, negotiation and reviews.

The Associated Press has contributed to this report

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