Koi Indian tribe unveils plans for $600 million casino resort in Sonoma County
The Koi Nation, a federally recognized tribe based in Sonoma County, unveiled plans Wednesday to turn a 68-acre vineyard southeast of Windsor into a $600 million casino resort, one of the largest of its kind in Northern California.
The 90-member Pomo tribe intends to turn the land about a half-mile from Shiloh Ranch Regional Park into the Shiloh Resort & Casino. Pending necessary state and federal approvals, it’s likely to take four years before the resort would be built and opened, tribal representatives said.
The tribe acquired the property at 222 East Shiloh Road from private owners this month for $12.3 million. Until then, most of its members lived in Sonoma County but didn’t have land of their own.
Although local officials expressed surprise and opposition to the massive casino development plan, they acknowledged that the tribe likely would have broad authority over how to develop its newly acquired property if the federal government grants the property sovereign status.
Koi Nation leaders, who went from being private citizens in Sonoma County to a force to be reckoned with in just a day, said they will seek input from community members and local elected leaders about their project.
The expected economic and community benefits of the resort would buoy the tribe’s members — many of whom struggle to afford living in the North Bay — but also provide a boost for county residents, they said.
“This day is a long time coming,” Koi Nation Chairman Darin Beltran said in an interview. “Our main objective is to become economically independent.”
If built, the Shiloh Resort & Casino would be the third Las Vegas-style gambling venue in Sonoma County, rivaling the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria casino outside Rohnert Park, which has the largest gaming floor in the Bay Area plus a 200-room hotel. It opened in 2013.
The Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians owns and operates the smaller River Rock Casino near Geyserville. It opened in 2002.
The Koi Nation’s planned development would include 2,500 slot and other gaming machines, a 200-room hotel, six restaurant and food service areas, a meeting center and a spa. The intent is an energy-efficient resort blended with the natural landscape. The entire development would stretch across 1.2 million square feet.
Approval of the casino resort ultimately rests with state and federal officials. Still, Koi Nation leaders said they already have reached out to Sonoma County supervisors to discuss their plans. Board Chair Lynda Hopkins recognized county officials may have little say over land-use decisions for the project under federal rules.
“Counties are pretty much cut out of the process,” Hopkins said.
Impacts on water resources, traffic, wildfire risk and public safety are all key concerns — and many of the same issues fueled opposition to development of Sonoma County’s two existing tribal casinos in the past two decades.
Supervisor James Gore, whose district includes Windsor and the casino’s proposed home just outside of the town, said he’s personally opposed to casinos.
He noted county officials reached an agreement with the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians in 2015 to refrain from building a large planned casino on their sovereign land in Windsor or anywhere else in the county. Unlike the Koi Nation, however, the Lytton tribe already owns a casino — in San Pablo in Contra Costa County.
Gore said he expects Windsor residents and town council members will be “vociferously loud” in objecting to the Koi Nation’s casino resort plan, concerned about traffic congestion, environmental impacts and crime.
Dino Beltran, Koi Nation vice chair, said the tribe expects questions and concerns from the community.
“We’re going to be very open-eared to what people have to say,” Beltran said. “We’ll have the community outreach and deal with what folks’ concerns are.”
The Koi Nation on Wednesday also submitted plans in Washington, D.C. to place the 68-acre Shiloh Road tract into a trust held by the federal government, which would allow the tribe to exercise its sovereignty over the land.
The announcement and filing with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs starts the clock on what will be a long approval and construction process that could take four years, said Sam Singer, a spokesman for the tribe and well-known Bay Area public relations manager.
The tribe hopes to begin construction on the resort in one to two years, and is expected to take another two years until it’s ready to open, Singer said.