No New Year’s Gamble: Graton Resort Casino Concedes to Public Pressure, Cancels Party

Posted on: December 25, 2020, 10:59h. 

Last updated on: December 25, 2020, 11:46h.

Graton Resort Casino north of San Francisco has called off its planned New Year’s Eve event, one that expected a crowd of some 4,000 people.

Graton casino California tribal gambling
The Graton Resort Casino has pulled the plug on its New Year’s Eve party, a decision county officials lauded. (Image: San Francisco Chronicle)

Amid public backlash for the event that was set to welcome thousands of guests to ring in the new year indoors, the tribal casino announced in a brief statement that the shindig was canned.

“Our previously scheduled private event has been canceled and we will be closing our doors from 5PM on December 31, 2020 until 6AM on January 1, 2021. We apologize for any inconvenience and look forward to seeing you again in 2021,” the casino explained.

The party was an invite-only happening reserved for the casino’s most distinguished guests. That includes its high rollers, which Graton qualifies as someone who gambles at least $300,000 in a six-month span.

Located about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, Graton offers 3,000 slot machines and 120 live dealer table games. The resort features 200 guestrooms, spa, a fitness center, outdoor pool, and conference center.

Tribe Gives In

With few exceptions, all indoor gatherings involving members of other households are prohibited throughout the state on California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) order. But being owned and operated by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, the Graton Resort Casino is not required to adhere to state or county health orders.

Public scolding on social media, however, seemingly convinced the tribe to concede to the pressure and cancel its New Year’s Eve gathering. Comments on the casino’s Facebook page were overwhelmingly supportive of the decision.

Many gave thanks to the tribe for protecting the community and its employees from potential exposure to COVID-19. However, one comment opposed the cancellation.

You are Native American. You do what you want. Meanwhile, only a couple hours away, Las Vegas will be partying,” a post opined.

County officials said calling off the event was smart.

“I think they heard the negative criticism, they took that into consideration, and they changed their mind,” Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt told The North Bay Business Journal. “I think when people change their mind, when they sit back and listen to other points of view, that’s a good thing. I do really appreciate them pulling back.”

Tribal Casino Backlash

California’s tribal casinos have continued to operate since reopening in May. Critics believe the gaming floors are helping spread the coronavirus.

Of the 64 tribal casinos in California, all but three are open for business. Meanwhile, the state’s commercial card clubs — which must adhere to state and county orders — are closed.

“I think casinos staying open has the potential for a really negative impact and increasing cases in this pandemic,” declared Juliet Morrison, a virologist at the University of California, Riverside.

Some employees agree.

“It’s an incredibly stressful place to work,” one employee of Fantasy Springs in Indio told the Desert Sun. “Most of us feel we are just waiting for our turn to get the virus.”