Northern California Tribe’s Plans for $600m Casino Has Sonoma County Leaders in a Tizzy

  • Shiloh Casino & Resort is planned on land the Koi Nation has claimed in Sonoma County
  • State Senator McGuire described the project as “deeply concerning” and not right for the area
  • Congressman Huffman said the county is “not the Sunset Strip” and “we have enough casinos”
  • The tribe has applied to place the land in federal trust, making it eligible for gaming under IGRA
  • Once fully operational, the Northern Carolina casino resort will employ over 1,100 permanent staff
Santa Rosa in focus on California map
The Koi Nation tribe of Northern California has filed plans to build the $600m Shiloh Resort & Casino to the north of Santa Rosa, much to the dismay of Sonoma County leaders. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Tribe files building plans

An announcement by the Koi Nation tribe that it has filed plans to build a $600m casino resort on land it has claimed in Northern California has caused consternation among Sonoma County leaders.

The small tribe announced on September 15 that is claiming 68 acres of land in Sonoma County, where it aims to construct the Shiloh Resort & Casino complex.

The proposal for the low-rise Shiloh Resort & Casino includes a facility for 2,500 gaming machines, a hotel with 200 rooms, six restaurants and food service areas, a conference center, and a spa. The energy-efficient complex will also be entirely non-smoking.

While the casino proposal still has a way to go before the tribe’s building contractors pour cement, it has caused a ruckus among Sonoma County officials, according to the Santa Rosa-based Press Democrat.

I happen to believe we have enough casinos.”

State Senator Mike McGuire (D) said the project was “deeply concerning”, adding that the county doesn’t require another casino and that it was “not the right plan for the north county.” Representing California’s second district, U.S. Congressman Jared Huffman (D) said he was “gobsmacked”. He argued that Sonoma County is “not the Sunset Strip. I happen to believe we have enough casinos.”

Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore said that while he personally opposed new casinos in the county, he has to “honor the process.”

Exercising sovereign rights

According to the San Francisco Business Times, the Koi Nation paid $12.3m for the land north of Santa Rosa earmarked for its casino, selecting the 68-acre site “to reestablish its tribal land base.” It said in a news release that it was “exercising their sovereign rights under federal law” in filing plans to build the Shiloh Resort & Casino.

The tribe announced that its attorneys had filed an application on Wednesday to place the land in federal trust, making it eligible for gaming in line with the 1988 federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The Koi Nation’s tribal chairman, Darin Beltran, said this process will result in an environmental review and public comment period “to begin in 60 to 90 days.” 

“Long overdue steps”

A 2019 federal court decree reinstated the Koi Nation’s recognition and rights as a tribal entity, including its right to establish a sovereign land base, as it has now done just north of Santa Rosa. The federally recognized tribe is one of the last bands of Pomo people who have been without land for the majority of the past 150 years.

A larger California tribe recently in the news was the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. It is set to buy the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas for $650m.

In reference to the land base claimed and plans for the casino resort, Beltran said the tribe was “taking long overdue steps to preserve our cultural and historic integrity and secure a brighter future for coming generations.”

According to the Koi Nation news release, building the casino and resort will create hundreds of jobs. Once operational, it expects Shiloh Resort & Casino to employ over 1,100 permanent staff. Beltran added that revenue from Shiloh Resort & Casino will give the tribal government the economic independence to provide tribal citizens with a long-term source of income.