New resolution

California: Sonoma County officials, state tribes unanimously oppose planned Koi casino near Windsor

Rendering for Koi Nation's proposed Shiloh Resort & Casino in California.
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Sonoma County supervisors are unanimously opposing Koi Nation’s attempts to establish a casino within the county. The Board of Supervisors adopted on Tuesday a resolution stating its rejection of the tribe’s plans, which call for a gambling venue near Windsor.

The Koi Nation of Northern California is seeking to place land southeast of Windsor into trust to build the venue. But Sonoma County’s Board, and tribal councils of other state-recognized nations, argue the Koi Nation “lacks the necessary significant historical connection” to the lands at 222 East Shiloh Road.

These are the lands the tribe applied with the Department of the Interior to have placed into trust to become sovereign tribal land. But Sonoma County supervisors argue that as a Southeastern Pomo tribe, “the Koi Nation’s historic ancestral lands lie in Lake County.”

The Board argues its action supports the five federally recognized tribes of Sonoma County. These include the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians, Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians, Cloverdale Rancheria of Pomo Indians, Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, and Lytton Band of Pomo Indians.

Rendering for the proposed Shiloh Resort & Casino

Sonoma County supervisors explain that these five tribes “have all written letters expressing their opposition,” or have passed resolutions in opposition to the Koi Nation’s much-debated application. 

The resolution adopted on Tuesday, and the letters of the federally recognized Sonoma County tribes, “represent a petition to the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which has the authority to deny, approve, or condition the taking of land into trust for gaming,” stated the Board of Supervisors.

“While we wholeheartedly support the rights of Native American tribes to establish sovereign lands, this application by the Koi Nation could set a serious, negative precedent in allowing one tribe to establish trust land in the ancestral lands of another tribe,” said District 4 Supervisor James Gore, Chair of the Board of Supervisors.

The Koi Nation bought the 68.8-acre parcel at 222 E. Shiloh Road near Shiloh Ranch Regional Park in September 2021, and then announced its intention to develop the land for a hotel and casino. Should the tribe’s application to have the land placed into trust be approved, the property would become the sovereign land of the Koi Nation.

While the state and county do not have civil regulatory jurisdiction over trust lands, including zoning laws, both do have criminal prohibitory jurisdiction over trust lands. This means the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office enforces criminal laws on trust lands.

But in regards to the opening of a casino, the decision is not the county’s to make. Sonoma County does not have regulatory jurisdiction or decision-making authority over whether a casino opens on land the federal government has taken into trust for gaming for a tribe.

Earlier this year, the Koi Nation announced it would be partnering with Oklahoma-based Chickasaw Nation for the proposed $600 million casino near Windsor. The planned Shiloh Resort & Casino is set to feature 2,500 Las Vegas-style gaming machines, a 200-room hotel, six restaurants and food service areas, a meeting center and a spa, according to Koi leaders.

The Chickasaw nation would manage and operate the facility, expected to employ more than 1,100 full-time workers once fully operational. According to a data model generated for the Chickasaw Nation, there is demand for a large gambling facility near the Shiloh site.

On Tuesday, Koi tribal representatives pointed to a statement tribal Vice Chairman Dino Beltran made on Monday, in which he indicated the tribe was “blindsided” by the resolution, reports North Bay Business Journal. Additionally, the tribe said top county officials didn’t notify the Koi about the resolution, which refers to their nation as a “Non-Sonoma County Tribe."

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