California - The Hopland Band of Pomos plans to build
a second, 100,000-square-foot casino in Cloverdale to
which it will move its casino-style gambling from the
Sho-Ka-Wah casino on the reservation in Hopland.
The Sho-Ka-Wah casino will then concentrate on bingo as
its primary gaming.
The tribe is working with the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe,
which is acting as developer for the project on Hopland's
behalf, and Matt Lemley, a former economic development
director for the Cloverdale tribe, who is representing
the Santana family, which owns the 12 acres of Cloverdale
property. The property is already in federal trust status
(and has been for decades) and is therefore eligible for
casino development. The land lies east of Highway 101
at the southern end of Cloverdale, across a street from
property under consideration for a major resort and golf
Eric Ramos, chief financial officer of the Blue Lake Rancheria,
explained Wednesday that the project has been in the talking
stage for a couple of years and that he and others have
been contacting everyone they could think of who would
have an interest, including the City of Cloverdale, the
local police and fire departments, local businesses, Realtors
and the Cloverdale service clubs.
"We've never seen a site better suited," he
said, noting that the land is across the highway from
the Cloverdale downtown core and main residential areas,
and already has good highway access, so light, noise and
traffic should not be major issues.
Ramos said the next step for the Hopland tribe is to approach
the City of Cloverdale to negotiate water and sewer extensions
to the land. He said if the tribe has to create its own
water and sewer project it would likely cost $2 million,
which he said could better be used helping to improve
the city's services.
He said the city has let him know it wants more public
debate about the casino, and there is a public meeting
on it scheduled for 6 p.m. tonight at the Citrus Fair
building in Cloverdale.
The new casino is planned at a cost of $250 per square
foot or $25 million. It would create about 500 full time
equivalent jobs. Ramos also noted that the Hopland Band
has committed to ensuring that 80 percent of the subcontracting
for the development would go to Sonoma and Mendocino county
contractors. Since the land is already in trust, the Santana
family will transfer that trust to the Hopland Band. Under
the 1999 gaming compact the Hopland tribe signed with
the state under former Gov. Gray Davis, the tribe can
build up to two casinos and operate a total of 2,000 slot
machines. The new casino will start with 1,700 slots,
perhaps building to 2,000 and 40 to 50 card tables. It
will have a "quick service" cafe, a separate
buffet and a bar.
Because the land is in trust already and the tribe has
a compact, it does not need permission to go forward with
the project from local authorities. However, Ramos said
that's not a good way to do business.
"It's bad public policy to say we're going to do
it because we can," he said.
said so far he would characterize reaction to the project
as "mixed," depending on who you're talking
to. He believes, as the developer, that there are good
answers on all the likely concerns about traffic, safety,
lighting and design. There is no firm design yet, although
he said so far they're trending to something on a Tuscan
theme that would fit in with wine country atmosphere.
He acknowledged that Sonoma County is very concerned with
"look and feel" of new development.
"They don't want pink neon," he said.
Depending on how quickly the Hopland tribe can come to
agreement with the city of Cloverdale, the casino project
could be up and running in about two years. Ramos said
it would take about 14 months from an agreement with the
city. The project overview materials also indicate it
will need a full environmental review and approval from
the National Indian Gaming Commission.
The tribe will also work with Cloverdale and Sonoma County
on an agreement to mitigate impacts such as the need for
emergency services, lost tax revenues, problem gambling
and other issues.
The new casino will be ideally located for Highway 101
traffic and may grab business from the only other major
casino between the Bay Area and Cloverdale, the River
Rock Casino in the Alexander Valley near Geyserville,
which is off the highway along a winding back road.
Since Hopland will be moving its main casino gambling
-- which by all accounts has been struggling since the
River Rock Casino opened -- to the Cloverdale site, it
stands to gain considerable revenue and will not be competing
with itself in Hopland.
Ramos said he thinks a Cloverdale casino will draw primarily
from Santa Rosa, Petaluma and other points south, including
the Bay Area. He said studies have shown there is still
plenty of room for more slots in the North Bay area.