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Hopland Formos Plans New Casino

Hopland Band of Pomos plans to build a second 100,000-square-foot casino in Cloverdale, where it will relocate casino-style gambling from the Sho-Ka-Wah casino under Hopland's reservation.
The Sho-Ka-Wah casino will then focus on bingo as its main game.

The tribe works with the Blue Lake Ranchria Tribe, which is acting on behalf of Hopland as the project's developer, and Matt Lemley, the former head of economic development for the Cloverdale Tribe, which represents the Santana family, which owns 12 acres of the Cloverdale property. The property is already in federal trust (for decades) and is therefore eligible for casino development. The land is east of Highway 101 on the southern tip of Cloverdale, across the street from the property under consideration as a major resort and golf course project.

Eric Ramos, chief financial officer at Blue Lake Lanceria, explained on Wednesday that the project had been in the discussion phase for several years and was in touch with anyone who could think of anyone interested, including the city of Cloverdale, local police and fire departments, local businesses, real estate agents and the Cloverdale Services Club.

"We've never seen a more suitable site," he said, noting that the land is across the highway from the heart of Cloverdale city centre and a major residential district, and that light, noise and traffic are not a big problem because the highway is already accessible.

Ramos said the next step for the Hopland tribe would be to approach the city of Cloverdale and expand water and sewage systems on the land. He said it would cost the Hopland tribe $2 million if they had to build their own water and sewage projects, which he said could be better used to improve the city's services.
He said city authorities wanted more public discussions about the casino, and a public meeting about the casino is scheduled for tonight at 6 p.m. at the Citrus Fair building in Cloverdale.

The new casinos are planned to cost $250 or $25 million per square foot. This will create about 500 full-time jobs. Ramos also noted that Hopland Band has committed to having 80% of its subcontracts for development go to contractors in Sonoma and Mendocino counties. The Santana family will transfer the trust to Hopland Band because the land has already been trusted. Under a 1999 gaming agreement signed with the state under former Gov. Gray Davis, the Hopland Tribe will be able to build up to two casinos and operate a total of 2,000 slot machines. The new casinos will start with 1,700 slots and probably build 2,000 and 40-50 card tables. They will have a "quick service" cafe, a separate buffet and bar.

Land is already trusted and tribes have contracts, so they don't need to get permission from local authorities. Ramos, however, said it wasn't a good way to do business.
"It's a bad public policy to say you will because you can," he said.

He said that the response to the project so far will be characterized as "mixed," depending on who you talk to. As a developer, he believes that there will be good answers to any concerns that may arise regarding transportation, safety, lighting, and design. Although he said that so far, the project has been trending toward a Tuscan theme that matches the wine country vibe, there is no definitive design yet. He acknowledged that Sonoma County is very interested in the "look and feel" of the new development.

"They don't want pink neon," he said.

The casino project could be up and running in about two years, depending on how quickly the Hopland tribe can reach an agreement with the city of Cloverdale. Ramos said it would take about 14 months from the agreement with the city. The project overview material also said it needed a full environmental review and approval from the National Indian Games Board.

The tribe will also work with Cloverdale and Sonoma counties on agreements to mitigate impacts such as the need for emergency services, loss of tax revenue, problem gambling and other issues.

The new casino will be ideal for traffic on Interstate 101, and will be able to conduct business at River Rock Casino in Alexander Valley, near Guygerville, off the highway along the winding side road, the only other major casino between the Bay Area and Cloverdale.

Hopland could earn significant revenue and will not compete in Hopland, as it will move its main casino gambling, which has been struggling since the River Rock casino opened, to the Cloverdale site.

Ramos said he thinks the Cloverdale casino will be attracted mainly from other southern locations, including Santa Rosa, Petaluma and the Bay Area. He said research shows there is still plenty of room for more slots in the North Bay Area.
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Friday, February 9, 2024

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