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Massive $820 Million Casino In Rohnert Park Set To Open

ROHNERT PARK (CBS SF) -- Bay Area media got a tour of the $820 million Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park Wednesday as the 200 construction workers on the site readied the 340,000-square-foot casino for a Nov. 5 opening.

Greg Sarris, chairman of the 1,300 Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo members of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria that owns the casino, said it "will be the most interesting destination point in Northern California."

"What do you get for $800 million? You get quality on par with any great casino in the United States," said Joe Hasson, the casino and resort's general manager. The casino and resort is managed by Station Casinos of Las Vegas.

Inside the entrances on the north, south and east sides of the single-story structure are 3,000 slot and video poker machines, 144 gaming tables for blackjack, baccarat and poker and an 18-table non-smoking poker room.

There is a separate area off the main casino floor with high-limit slot machines where hundreds of dollars at a time can be waged, and a private area where bets in the thousands of dollars on table games are at stake.

A food court on the perimeter of the main casino floor offers nine restaurants and seating for 500, and there are four full-service restaurants, including the 630 Steak House that is owned and operated by the Graton Rancheria.

All the restaurants can be accessed from inside or outside the casino. A spacious, private employee dining room seats 250.

Sarris said the focal point and premiere gathering spot of the resort is the Sky Bar, a diamond-shaped center bar with a skylight and a 24-foot marble tower backlit with purple LED lighting surrounded by a 360-degree bar and casual seating.

The G Bar near the main entrance will have 38 flat screen televisions to watch sporting events, and the "8" Lounge in the high-limit casino area caters to VIP players.

There are 5,700 parking spaces outdoors or in a 5-level parking garage.

An Events Center seats 750 guests with room for 1,000 counting standing room only. Hasson said the casino aims to attract known entertainers that patrons want to see.

The predominant colors inside Sonoma County's second and most recent Indian casino are beige, brown and white. The 11,000 square yards of predominately brown carpet features 28 colors with patterns inspired by Sonoma County flowers.

Along the perimeter of casino's main floor are 32,000 feet of white terrazzo flooring inset with red abstract flowers and accented with glass, marble, mother-of-pearl shells and mirror chips.

Sarris said he wanted the casino's ambiance to reflect a "feeling of lightness and floating."

"It's open and not dark. It's a destination point, not just a casino. We want an inviting environment," he said.

Smoking is allowed on 90 percent of the casino floor. The casino will be open around the clock.

Hasson said 1,400 people have been hired and he is looking to hire 600 more.

"This is 10 years in the making," Sarris said.

The casino was opposed at public hearings and in court since it was first planned 10 years ago for the Sears Point area of southern Sonoma County, then after strong opposition from environmentalists, at the Rohnert Park site.

Even as the tribe opened its doors to a media tour Wednesday, the Stop Graton Casino group, formerly the Stop the Casino 101 Coalition, announced it is appealing another court ruling in the casino's favor.

"Under federal and state law, a tribe must have legal jurisdiction over a casino site before it is eligible for gambling activities. Since the state did not cede sovereignty over the Graton casino site, the land is still state land, and casino-style gaming is illegal on state land," the Stop Graton Casino group said in a news release Wednesday.

"We are asking only that the court enforce the law," casino opposition leader Chip Worthington said. "The Graton casino has not satisfied either federal or state law. That casino site is still governed by state law and the casino is illegal," Worthington said.

Worthington said it's not to late to shut down the casino even if it's under construction or in operation.

In a response Wednesday afternoon, Sarris said he has kept his word to build a facility for Indians and non-Indians that will create thousands of jobs and will provide $12 million a year to both Sonoma County and to Rohnert Park to mitigate the casino's impacts on traffic, law enforcement costs and other issues raised by opponents.

"I think I delivered. We have given more than the entire wine industry combined to mitigate traffic, and we did it because it's the right thing to do.

"It hasn't helped them (the casino opponents) to mislead the public. We kept on the straight and narrow. So many people's lives will be changed. They will get twice their salaries with medical and dental benefits. We raised the bar on wages and employment in Sonoma County," Sarris said.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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