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North Bay Casino Struggles With New Competition, Workers Leave In Droves

GEYSERVILLE (KPIX 5) -- The Bay Area's newest casino has resulted in serious consequences for the competition. Workers are leaving in droves and revenue is down significantly at one competitor.

Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park is chipping away at River Rock Casino, located 30 miles north in Geyserville.

"When we arrived, it was almost like we rented out the casino for a party," said Patricia Homrig, who went to River Rock on Wednesday.

Patrons leaving River Rock Wednesday afternoon told KPIX 5 it was empty inside the tent-like structure.

"It was three cars in the parking lot when we got here," said Norm Buller, also a River Rock customer. "You can virtually look around and not see anybody playing when you were playing in an entire row."

Officials at River Rock Casino declined to talk to KPIX 5. But its gaming commission chairman told the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat that revenue is down at least 30 percent. Others say it's more like 45 percent.

A longtime bus driver for the casino told KPIX 5 that people used to fight over seats. Now he said he's lucky if he even fills 10 percent of the seats on the bus.

"A huge drop in employees and a huge, major drop in customers," Homrig said.

About 100 workers have left River Rock to work at Graton. A slot supervisor said many of those workers live closer to the new casino.

"There's a lot of options for people to go other places. You know, Graton has impacted us," said River Rock supervisor Kelly Lehman.

Many people said it's hard for River Rock and other smaller casinos to compete.

"They're going to have to make it a better place to come to. Otherwise it's not going to make it," Buller said.

"Graton has a lot more to offer. Great food, a lot more machines," said Jeremy Molno, a customer at Graton.

River Rock was doing pretty well before Graton opened last year. The casino made $124 million in 2010, the last time it publicly reported its revenue.

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