When the Koi Nation revealed plans for a 200-room casino resort between Santa Rosa and Windsor this week, tribal officials said the facility could be up and running, and providing eleven hundred permanent jobs, within four years.
As a sovereign nation, the tribal government isn't required to abide by all county regulations. The proposal is raising concerns from some neighbors on social media, though according to Congressman Jared Huffman, it's far from a done deal. "A project in this location, if it were to clear all the other hurdles and the land would have to be taken into trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, there would have to be a compact with the state of California to allow gaming there. But even after those hurdles are cleared, you'd have to have cooperative agreements with surrounding governments. You're never going to get the utilities that you need and the services that you need to make a project like this fly, so it's really not something you can drop right in the middle of the community."
He says the project's timeline is optimistic. "Getting it into trust through the BIA process can take years, or even decades. I have tribes that have been waiting many, many years to hear back from BIA and some never do. So, the suggestion that this is going to happen in the next few years is I think not very realistic."
Though promoted as modern, green and stylish, the facility would have plenty of competition. There are already three casinos in Sonoma County and five more in Mendocino County. The tribe has 90 members according to a story in the Press Democrat. The vast majority, Tribal Chairman Darin Beltran said on the tribe's website, would be considered low income in the Bay Area.
Huffman says he wants the tribe to succeed, though perhaps with a different approach.
"I am all for economic development," Huffman said. "I would love to see the people of the Koi Tribe have a chance to better their lives. I would love to see this tribe get the housing and the higher standards of living that I'm sure it seeks for it's members, but there's a right way to do that and a wrong way and I hope that they'll step back and try to restart this conversation in a more constructive mode."
We'll bring you more on this story next week.