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New Casino Opening in California Wine Country

The $800 million Graton Resort & Casino that will open on Tuesday in California will be one of the largest of its kind in the state. The casino’s owners- the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria- hope its location in California wine country and its nearness to San Francisco will bring a large volume of tourists through its doors.

The Graton features Vegas-style gambling with blackjack and other table games, as well as more than 3000 slot machine and video poker machines. The casino is 340,000 square feet and features four full-service restaurants, nine casual dining establishments and three lounges. It will give over 2000 people full-time employment and will be managed by Station Casinos based in Las Vegas. The casino’s general manager Joe Hasson says “We’ve built it for convenience, access and accessibility, and then we’ve added quality to a level the market has not seen before.”

California’s more than 60 existing Native American casinos currently take in about $6.9 billion in revenue per year, according to economist Alan Meister. Whittier Law School professor I. Nelson Rose, an expert on gambling law, claims that California’s densely populated coastal counties have plenty of room for growing the casino business. “We’re clearly not reaching the saturation point,” he said. Less than 45 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge, the casino has access to the Bay Area population. The Graton has spared no expense in advertising its presence with television spots in San Francisco.

The casino and resort is the product of years of negotiation and lobbying by the 1300 member Graton Rancheria tribe. As part of their agreement, the tribe will contribute $25 million to county parks and open space, and they have agreed not to develop a casino on any other land it might acquire in the Marin or Sonoma counties. Tribe spokesman Greg Sarris said “What we feel as much as gratitude is profound responsibility to use this opportunity to mold a future not just for our youth and our people, but for non-Indians as well.”

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