The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria have completed an expansion to their casino and entertainment magnet in Rohnert Park to add a six-story, 200-room hotel, and brings the cost of the resort to nearly $1 billion.
That investment stands to deal a wide hand of residual benefits to the surrounding North Bay community in the form of revenue, jobs and environmental improvements. The $175 million, 342,000-square-foot expansion is in addition to the existing $800 million casino, restaurant and entertainment venue that opened in November 2013.
About 100 California companies contributed to building the hotel, employing about 1,000 in the trades. The entertainment complex itself now employs 2,000.
“The (economic) impact depends on where the workers live, but generally they support the operations of a local business that attracts tourists and also spends on suppliers,” said Robert Eyler, chief economist for the Marin Economic Forum. “The workers also shop at local stores, eat at local restaurants, and likely engage in some personal services purchases locally before or after work, and pay rents and mortgages. The idea is there is a boost to business incomes locally, which helps them support or hire more workers, all that generates more tax revenues.”
Employees of the casino receive free meals, and those working 20 or more hours receive full benefits.
“If we believe in the dignity of our team members and community, we must walk our talk,” said Greg Sarris, tribal chair of Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, owner of the resort. He said the workforce is diverse.
The treatment employees get at the casino has also caused other local hospitality facilities to raise their employee wages.
“There is a huge trickle-down effect,” Sarris said.
Now that the resort is a destination point, it will be looking to attract more international business, said Joe Hasson, vice president and resort general manager. The resort intends to continue its concierge service for guests to experience amenities in the North Bay area and partnership with a handful of local wineries offering rate reductions.
The expansion added guest rooms that range in size from 500 to 2,600 square feet, a 10,000-square-foot spa and a resort-like outdoor pool area.
The resort also plans to partner with neighboring hotels to provide lodging for large conventions in its new 20,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, which has a capacity for 1,700 people.
For the city of Rohnert Park itself, the casino is a mixed blessing.
“Will the casino convention space supplant some of the meetings held at the (nearby) DoubleTree, in which case, it will hurt revenue?” said City Manager Darrin Jenkins. “Or will it bring bigger conventions split between the two properties, thus increasing the frequency of meetings at the DoubleTree and raising revenues? It’s too soon to say.”
The resort has an agreement with the city to pay $8.3 million per year to offset impacts, almost half of which goes to cover public safety. The city also uses a portion of the funds to mitigate the loss of local taxes from the property the casino occupies, which other businesses would have to pay, Jenkins said.
“The casino occupies a portion of our sphere of influence, where our General Plan called for commercial development. Our General Plan financial analysis counted on this revenue to balance the service needs of residential development on the east side of Rohnert Park,” Jenkins said. “Because the reservation is not subject to local taxes, the city has lost property tax and sales tax on that property and will continue to do so forever. This lost revenue is a real impact of the casino.”