Sonoma County Casino Gains Development Partner, as Koi and Chickasaw Nations Team

Posted on: January 25, 2022, 09:18h. 

Last updated on: January 25, 2022, 10:04h.

A proposed tribal casino from the Koi Nation in Sonoma County has found a development partner in the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma. The venue would be on 68 acres of land that is currently a vineyard and estate.

Sonoma County casino Koi Chickasaw nation
A rendering of the $600 million Shiloh Casino & Resort in Sonoma County. The California tribe is partnering with the Chickasaw Nation in hopes of bringing its casino dreams to reality. (Image: Koi Nation)

The Koi Nation was only federally recognized in 2019. The small California tribe is trying to establish its economic sovereignty by way of a casino resort in wine country. In order to achieve its dreams, the Koi people are bringing in the Chickasaw Nation, which has the financial resources to build such an entertainment destination and a lengthy track record of running casino resorts.

Not only does the Chickasaw Nation have great expertise in gaming and resorts, but they also share the same values as the Koi Nation. Chickasaw leaders understand the importance of this project to the restoration of our economic self-reliance because they have walked the same path many times in support of their own people’s future,” said Dino Beltran, vice chair and director of development for the Koi Nation.

In September, the tribe acquired the 68-acre property, located at 222 E. Shiloh Rd. in unincorporated Sonoma County, for $12.3 million. The Koi and Chickasaw nations plan to build a $600 million resort called Shiloh Casino & Resort.

Early resort plans call for 2,500 slot machines and table game positions, a 200-room hotel, six restaurants and bars, a meeting space, a spa, and a live concert venue.   

Funding Achieved

The Koi Nation made many headlines last year when it announced its casino ambitions. Many questions were raised, most critically being where the small tribe — whose membership totals less than 100 — was getting its money to fund such a development.

The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria accused the Koi people of reservation shopping — the act of a tribe seeking to establish historical ties to a market that is attractive for economic development. Reservation shopping often includes a tribe partnering with a financially sound commercial enterprise or another tribe.

The Graton Rancherias claim the Koi people have no association with Sonoma County, and therefore should not have its land there taken into the federal trust. For federally recognized tribes to enter into Class III gaming compacts with the state, the land in which their casino sits must be held in federal trust.

Koi leaders say the Graton Rancheria argument is unjust, and that the tribe is only trying to protect its own economic interests in the region. The Koi Nation said it offered the Graton tribe the opportunity to partner on its Shiloh project, to no avail.

With the Chickasaws joining the Koi, the nation certainly has the financial backing to build the $600 million resort. The Chickasaw Nation membership totals more than 73,000 strong. The tribe owns and operates 22 casinos in Oklahoma, including WinStar World Casino and Resort, which is billed as the largest casino in the world.

The US Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs is still reviewing whether to take the Koi land into the federal trust.

Mutually Beneficial Agreement

The Koi Nation and Chickasaw Nation partnership should benefit both tribes.

Since the Koi people have no experience conducting gaming, the odds of California entering into a Class III gaming compact to allow Shiloh Casino & Resort to house traditional slot machines and table games greatly shorten by bringing in the Chickasaw tribe. Under their agreement, the Chickasaw Nation — by way of its fully owned Global Gaming Solutions enterprise — will operate the casino and collect part of its revenue.

Along with profit sharing, the Chickasaw pact with the Koi allows the Oklahoma tribe to venture outside its home state for the first time.