Plans to delay any plans to develop a casino in Petaluma, California by the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians have been put off until 2032. The promise from the Tribe forms the main part of a deal that was struck with the officials in Sonoma County. The county has agreed to write off the tribe’s yearly 750,000 USD payment for 2020 as well as 2021.
The locals in the county have on several occasions voiced their opposition to the construction of a casino in the region. The county and the tribe have a standing deal for its existing casino 45 miles away from Petaluma. The deal gives the tribe financial relief as it experienced an immense loss of revenue in 2020 as its River Rock Casino was shut down due to health and safety regulations put in place across the country.
The Dry Creek Pomo Indians own vacant land located south of Petaluma which spans 300 acres. Locals have always been wary of the land and are always on edge when the topic of developing the land comes up. The tribe is well within their rights to build another casino on the land as per an agreement with the state of California. However, Sonoma County is the middle of the wine country in California and residents have displayed their distaste for a casino in the area. The tribe has applied to change the status of the land and deem it fit for gaming development in 2005. However, the application to the federal government has subsequently been suspended but that doesn’t mean that locals rest easy given the tribe's claim to the land.
In 2013, the Graton Casino Resort owned by the Federated Band of Graton Rancheria was established in Rohnert Park. A development that succeeded but was also opposed by residents. Since its opening, the River Rock Casino has been negatively affected as the Graton Casino is now the largest in the north of California. The location cuts off the River Rock and drives patrons to Graton Casino from the Bay Area. If the Dry Creek Pomo Indians succeed in building a casino in Petaluma, more patrons will visit the establishment due to its location and increase the tribe’s overall revenue.
The opposition to the construction has just been too significant for the Dry Creek Pomo Indians to even consider a fight for a new casino in the county. In 2006, the first deal was struck between Sonoma County and the tribe after 80% of the residents in Petaluma voted against the tribe’s plan. The two entities inked a memorandum that tied up numerous legal disagreements and pushed any plan for the establishment of a casino in the city of Petaluma to 2016.
Furthermore, when it came closer to the end of the hold, 2015 came with a new deal. The new deal pushed any plan for a casino in Petaluma to 2025. At the time, the River Rock Casino was under financial pressure due to the continued success of the Graton Casino Resort and welcomed an agreement that decreased its annual payment of 3.5 million USD a year to the new total of 750,000 USD. The deal also saved the tribe a considerable amount of money over the years to follow. In 2015, Chris Wright, the Dry Creek Pomo Indians’ chairman said that there were no existing plans for the plot located in Petaluma. There were certainly no plans or talk of a gaming facility either and that any attempt to do so would be troublesome and hard to gain approval for any work or development to take place on the land.