From negative to positive: Graton's changed perception

Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park has been a main attraction in the area since its opening almost six years ago. The $825 million, 320,000 square foot building opened back in November 2013 and has greatly benefitted both the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria and the community. 

Sonoma State senior Christie Hamilton, like many students, has enjoyed the casino more and more since becoming of legal age to gamble in California. “Graton is always a fun place to go no matter what day of the week it is,” she said. “They have great food and it’s a place to go with friends to de-stress and just have a good time.”

The Graton Resort and Casino, a 320,000 square foot facility in Rohnert Park, has become a strong fixture in Sonoma County, boosting local economy and tourism.

The Graton Resort and Casino, a 320,000 square foot facility in Rohnert Park, has become a strong fixture in Sonoma County, boosting local economy and tourism.

It has brought in great revenue and given many people something fun to do with friends or family when they are feeling extra lucky. However, this was not always the response.

With Rohnert Park being mostly families and students, the community did have an initial negative perception. Most of the input that was given before it was built pertained to taking the project down. After the announcement of the casino, a coalition was created that was called “Stop the Casino 101.” This was created to invalidate the Tribe who sought to build the casino but was eventually dismissed by the California Court of Appeal. 

Since the opening, there have not been any new concerns about the actual casino itself besides those initially brought to light. “Our residents are concerned about traffic, and visitors to the casino certainly contribute toward traffic congestion, especially around Golf Course Drive,” said Rohnert Park City Manager Darren Jenkins. 

He said the city will be using casino mitigation funds in the coming years to make new improvements after they get approval from Caltrans. If the approval is received, they will be adding a second left turn lane to Golf Course Drive at Redwood Drive, along with connecting the traffic signals. “We are also working on giving our fire engines emergency priority where they will receive a green light when responding to high priority calls,” said Jenkins. 

While acknowledging the initial fears, Jenkins said that although this was the most significant issue in the community at one time, the perception has changed. In more recent years, the casino has gained more support, and in February 2019, it was not even in the top 20 most important issues in the community.

The Tribe that made the casino possible  to the community has always made sure to keep up with commitments that they made with the city. They have made sure to do a lot to mitigate potential environmental concerns that the casino could have brought. According to Jenkins, the Tribe honors their approximately $11.5 million per year investment in the community. Along with this contribution, the Tribe provides $1.1 million to projects and programs and another $1.1 million per year to local organizations and non-profits. 

“The city uses these monies to fund public safety officers, public works maintenance workers, a crime analyst, code compliance staff, and others who provide services to our community and offset the impacts to the casino,” said Jenkins. “We also use the funds to improve our parks, streets, sidewalks, and other amenities in our neighborhoods.”

Along with these commitments, the casino in general has brought economic growth and job opportunities to many. A good portion of the net sum of the casino is even seen to be coming from outside of the county, which means those who visit the area tend to be checking it out and enjoying the city itself, simultaneously boosting the local economy and increasing tourism.