Judge dismisses lawsuit seeking to stop Rohnert Park casino

A Sonoma County judge on Thursday dealt a serious blow to opponents of the tribal casino being built outside Rohnert Park, tossing out a lawsuit aimed at halting the project that had been set for trial today.

The lawsuit filed against Gov. Jerry Brown was the latest effort in a 10-year battle by the Stop the Casino 101 Coalition to derail the casino being developed by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. It sought to invalidate Brown's contract with the tribe that allowed it to build a Las Vegas-style casino on its 254-acre Wilfred Avenue reservation. Casino foes had hoped a successful suit would limit the tribe to a gambling hall with only bingo machines and card games, perhaps crippling a project that has cost $800 million to develop.

As it stands, the Graton Resort & Casino is set to open late this year as the Bay Area's largest gaming hall, with 2,000 employees and 3,000 slot machines.

Following the ruling, Stop the Casino leaders immediately announced they would consider appealing the decision. They suggested that Superior Court Judge Elliot Daum had been wary of tackling a case involving the extraordinarily complex area of Indian law, one that could have reverberated broadly in the world of tribal casino development.

"I did really feel that this would be a tough case for a local judge because of the magnitude of the case," said Marilee Montgomery of Rohnert Park, one of the plaintiffs.

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