California County Seeks to Discover if Tribe Plans a Casino

Officials in a Northern California county, Sonoma are trying to find out if the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians is trying to put 277 acres near Petaluma into trust so it can build a casino. So far, its efforts have been frustrated.

Officials of Sonoma County, California seeking to find out if the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians have applied to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to put 277 acres near Petaluma into trust for a casino are frustrated that they are unable so far to get an answer.

Normally tribes don’t share that sort of information with other entities until federal law requires them to seek comments, which then requires officials to scramble to meet the 30-day deadline to respond.

The county has submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to the BIA but so far has heard nothing.

According to Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt, quoted by Petaluma 360, “Part of what we’re trying to change right now is that sometimes local jurisdictions don’t even know, or are the last to know, that an application has been made. Once we get a letter, they want comments within a pretty quick turnaround — 30 days. Thirty days to minimalize a large development on your doorstep is not really enough time.” He added, “The BIA isn’t recognizing the importance of local governments being in the loop.”

Previously the tribe stated that it wanted to put the land into trust to avoid taxes, not to build a casino. However, the fact that the tribe’s existing casino, River Rock Casino, in Geyserville, has seen its revenues drop 30 percent since the Graton Resort and Casino opened nearby lends weight to the argument that it might want to build a casino as far as possible from Rohnert Park, where Graton is located.