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Work starts on $175M expansion of Station Casinos Indian resort

A long-planned hotel expansion to Station Casinos’ Indian gaming property in Northern California began Wednesday.

The $175 million project will add a 200-room hotel tower and other nongaming amenities to the Graton Resort and Casino, which is located in the Sonoma County city of Rohnert Park. Station Casino manages the resort for Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria. The project is expected to be completed late next year.

“This is part of the original master plan, the tribe’s vision and Station Casinos’ desire to offer a resort with full amenities,” said Graton General Manager Joe Hasson.

The six-story hotel tower will connect to the casino building and include 20,000 square feet of meeting space, expanded catering facilities, a spa, and resort-style pool area. The hotel lobby will include a new bar and lounge area.

Graton, which opened in November 2013 at cost of $800 million, currently contracts with neighboring hotels for its overnight guests. Graton is near the California wine country and adjacent to several golf courses.

“The simple answer is that we need rooms and it’s one of the expectations of our guests,” Hasson said. “This expansion allows us to become a full-scale destination resort.”

California is the nation’s largest Indian gaming market, with 68 casinos producing $7 billion in annual gaming revenue, according to a recent report by the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Southern California economist Alan Meister, who authors the annual Indian Gaming Industry Report for Casino City, said earlier this year nongaming expansion projects “a theme throughout Indian gaming.”

Graton, which operates 3,000 slot machines, 130 table games and a live poker room in its casino, also has an 8,700 square-foot events center for concerts and special events and a dozen restaurants and bars.

Analysts have said the property, which is located 45 minutes north of San Francisco, is one of most profitable and high-margin regional casinos.

Station Casinos and the tribe refinanced the loans that cover the resort. The company expects its fees for operating the facility to increase by $5 million annually.

Station Casinos has one other potential California Indian casino project through development and management agreements with the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians. The company would build and operate a casino in central California, about 25 miles north of Fresno. However, California voters shot down the casino in the November 2014 election. The tribe filed a lawsuit earlier this year to keep the development alive.

Station Casino is not the only Nevada casino operator with interests in California’s Indian gaming market.

Caesars Entertainment Corp. operates the Harrah’s Resort Southern California in San Diego County for the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians.

Tropicana and M Resort owner Penn National Gaming is building the $390 million Hollywood Casino Jamul, 20 miles east of San Diego for the Jamul Indian Village. Penn will operate the casino under a management contract. The company expects to open the resort in 2016.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Find @howardstutz on Twitter.

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