With Graton’s opening day behind us, many think there is nothing that could possibly be done about this monstrosity that sits on the outskirts of Rohnert Park. However, we need to change that train of thought because there still remains an opportunity for the courts to shut the Graton Casino down forever. Our appeal has been filed with a sound legal argument concerning the jurisdiction over the land.
Mike Healy, part of our legal team, published an op-ed in the SF Gate about what will happen to California if we don’t stop the Indian Casino expansion. Please read his piece to realize that this fight isn’t over just because Graton has opened.
Click here for the full article.
California should not cede lands to gambling tribes
November 10, 2013
The Bay Area just got its first Indian casino – the Graton tribe mega-casino – and it brings mega-problems. North Bay traffic will never be the same. The tribe claims the casino will bring an economic boom, but experts say casinos catering to local residents are like parasites. They drain peoples’ wallets and harm small restaurants and other businesses. Nevada works because it brings in tourists, not just locals. Such are the bane of urban casinos.
What can be done? Many people say nothing. We disagree. I am one of the attorneys challenging the legality of the Graton casino. We argue that California law authorizes Indian gaming only on lands under tribal sovereignty, and tribes only have sovereignty over long-standing reservations, not over recently purchased lands.
The state sovereignty issue pops up in varying contexts. Restaurants at the Presidio toyed with serving foie gras despite a statewide ban because the Presidio is under federal jurisdiction. It’s the same issue here. Slot machines are illegal on lands subject to California’s jurisdiction.
The Graton casino site was owned by non-Indians for 160 years. It unquestionably was subject to state sovereignty, including California’s ban on slot machines. Even though the federal government now owns the site, ownership is not the same as jurisdiction. Jurisdiction does not transfer until the Legislature affirmatively cedes it. Gov. Jerry Brown concedes that was not done for the Graton casino site.
Recognizing this principle would empower state officials to deal effectively with tribal requests for gaming compacts on sites they’ve located after reservation-shopping sprees. Our elected leaders should not be allowed to hide behind the mantra that “our hands are tied” because Prop. 1A (passed by state voters in 2000) and federal law require California to grant a gaming compact to any tribe that seeks one. The law is otherwise.
It was not supposed to be this way. When voters passed Prop.1A, TV ads stressed that reservations were in rural areas. Ballot arguments promised that gaming would be limited to existing – mostly remote – reservations. Rural casinos would be small. Off-reservation impacts would be manageable.
But look what’s happened. Tribes now reservation shop for lands nearer and nearer to cities, to open ever bigger casinos, all financed by Las Vegas partners. The Graton casino, with 3,000 slot machines, is bigger than anything on the Las Vegas strip, and was conceived, financed and is now operated by Station Casinos of Nevada. It leapfrogs River Rock casino, and sits 40 minutes closer by auto to the Bay Area.
Here in Petaluma, we are concerned that the Dry Creek tribe, which owns River Rock, now will try to leapfrog the Graton. They bought land south of Petaluma and everyone expects the tribe will want a new casino 15 minutes south of the Graton casino. And after that, who will come along to build even closer to San Francisco?
The Wappo Indians are fighting to be recognized as a tribe in Napa. Ohlone Indians also seek recognition. Brown, when mayor of Oakland, wanted an Indian casino in Oakland.Willie Brown proposed one for Treasure Island. And so, Las Vegas and its tribal partners march ever closer to San Francisco.
California cannot be compelled to cede jurisdiction over lands within its borders. The governor should be supporting our case, not opposing it.
The legal case is now on appeal. We are committed to obtaining an appellate ruling that will prevent California from becoming another Nevada.
Graton Casino opens tomorrow, and authorities are warning us to prepare for the worst. An estimated 10,000 patrons will be visiting the casino on opening day. Authorities are unsure how bad the traffic will be, but are urging people to avoid Highway 101 unless you want to be “inconvenienced and delayed.”
We should expect weeks of this kind of traffic, and who knows, maybe even months. “We are using the same incident command system as we would for a natural or man-made disaster,” said CHP Officer Jon Sloat.
Graton Casino is exactly that–a man-made disaster.
Below is the article from the Press Democrat about what to expect on opening day of Graton Casino.
Brace for traffic delays when casino opens, authorities warn
November 3rd, 2013
Find another route.
That’s a key bit of advice that authorities are dispensing as they brace for weeks of heavy traffic following the opening Tuesday of the Graton Resort & Casino.
The roads — especially Highway 101 — are likely to be rough going as many thousands of vehicles are added to the normal traffic mix as patrons travel to the $800 million casino just outside Rohnert Park.
“We’re urging people to be patient, be patient, because you will be inconvenienced and you will be delayed,” said CHP Officer Jon Sloat.
The 3,000 slot machine casino will be open 24 hours a day and has been publicized for months with a multimillion dollar ad campaign. In one indicator of interest, more than 100,000 people are expected to sign up for player rewards cards by opening day, General Manager Joe Hasson said last month.
The CHP is one of several agencies deploying extra resources to manage the expected crush of traffic making its way to the Bay Area’s largest casino. The Sheriff’s Office, Rohnert Park’s public safety department and Petaluma police are also staffing up starting Tuesday.
“We’ve got a good plan,” said Brian Masterson, Rohnert Park public safety director.
Rohnert Park will have five additional officers on traffic duty and has contracted five CHP officers to help out on city streets. The CHP is rolling out 15 additional motorcycle and patrol units. The Sheriff’s Office and Petaluma police are supplying extra manpower.
Officers are prepared to take measures including over-riding traffic lights and opening carpool lanes to all vehicles to assist traffic flow, Sloat said.
Officers at a mobile command center at the city’s public safety headquarters are to stage-manage traffic control tactics based upon instant updates from officers in the field. “We want to make sure we’re communicating with all the public safety stakeholders so if we have an emergency situation, everyone knows what’s going on,” Masterson said.
“We should be able to get really good intel when we see those problems and we’ll do what we can to try and mitigate those, but there’s also the potential that we may not be able to do much with the traffic if it gridlocks,” he said.
Although officials are citing a number of 10,000 additional vehicles, what actually will take place Tuesday morning — the casino’s doors open at 10 a.m. — is unknown.
“We really have no idea at this point; it’s just wait and see, really. But we’re planning for the worst, absolute gridlock and how to mitigate that,” said Sloat, whose agency has the lead role in the operation.
“We are using the same incident command system as we would for a natural or man-made disaster,” he said.
Sonoma County residents might want to start brushing up on their favorite road trip game. Because in just four short weeks, we will be spending a lot more time on the road. So, plan ahead, pack a snack, and name that tune.
As if Highway 101 isn’t bad enough with nearly 100,000 travelers per day, Sonoma County residents need to prepare for an estimated addition of 40,800 more vehicles (at most) once Graton casino opens. Robert Marcucci, a former San Rafael Fire Chief, bases this estimation on Lytton Pomo tribe’s San Pablo Casino. The analysis showed that each slot generated “13.6 vehicle trips each weekday.”
Having a casino operating 24-hours, could mean no relief at any point in the day, but some may see that as an “advantage.” Rohnert Park Public Safety Director Brian Masterson says, “It trickles in, versus one huge rush. That is an advantage.”
Whether it’s an advantage or not, every Sonoma County resident will be impacted by this added traffic. The best option could be to avoid Hwy 101 at all costs, but that will congest the surface streets and back roads. Bottom line: there will be no way around these “traffic woes.”
Here is an excerpt from Santa Rosa’s Press Democrat.
Casino report warns of traffic woes
October 7th, 2013
The Graton Resort & Casino, which is set to open outside Rohnert Park on Nov. 5, could mean an increase of 40,800 vehicle trips a day on Highway 101, a report prepared for the county says, but some officials said the figure could be much lower.
“If that is the case, it would be a backup from Rohnert Park Expressway to Petaluma,” CHP Officer Jon Sloat said, referring to the upper-end projections.
The Board of Supervisors is to review today the report by consultant Robert Marcucci, a former San Rafael Fire Chief, part of a presentation that focuses on preparations for the casino’s opening weeks.
In 2012, according to Caltrans data, the combined number of north- and southbound vehicle trips on Highway 101 south of Wilfred Avenue — which will be the primary freeway exit for the casino— averaged 97,000 a day.
Officials who have been planning for the opening for two months say they are prepared for the worst eventualities. But they generally downplayed that possibility, while also acknowledging that bad traffic backups are a worry.
“It’s a high number,” Rohnert Park Public Safety Director Brian Masterson said of Marcucci’s projections. Based on conversations with casino management, numbers more along the lines of 8,000 to 10,000 visitors a day are expected, Masterson said.
Also, traffic to the casino will be spread over the 24 hours a day it is open, ameliorating its impact.
“It trickles in, versus one huge rush,” Masterson said. “That is an advantage.”
The casino’s environmental report anticipated 14,274 additional vehicle trips a day because of the project. Casino opponents have consistently said the number would be 40,000.
“We have plans going from if we don’t see much of any impact to what do we do if there’s complete gridlock,” Darrin Jenkins, Rohnert Park’s assistant city manager, said of the city’s preparations for the casino’s opening weeks.
Click here for the full article.