Observations on the Graton Resort and Casino

My son and I had dinner last night at the Casino in Rohnert Park. We did this for 3 reasons. First, we needed a place to eat as neither of us felt like cooking. Second, I wanted to look around at the place. Third, he needed to do a restaurant secret shopper for one of his classes at the SRJC Culinary School.

We decided to go long after the opening so that we would get there on a night that was not crowded. I was shocked by how full it was. The Casino has 4 large sit down restaurants and 9 establishments in the food court. Two of the sit down restaurants had lines. I had not anticipated that the Casino would be that full. I am not sure if it is due to the newness of the place or this is how it will be going forward.

My first impression going inside was that the Casino was massive. I have been to Vegas many times for Trade Shows and never had an impression of a Casino floor that large. I believe that this is an illusion as in Vegas they want to stretch out the Casinos as you walk through the hotel. Everwhere you go you have to walk through gaming. In Graton, gambling is clearly the primary attraction and the gaming floor is most of the center of the room. The main room was either a square or a rectangle.

This main room was organized into 4 tiers. The outside of the main room is a walkway that allows you to go around the perimeters. There were large walkways that created a cross that allowed one to go through the center of the gaming room. As you walk towards the center, a Tier of Slot Machines were toward the outside. The next Tier inward consisted of Gaming tables. At the very center of the room was a raised bar. Though there were non-smoking areas, most of the casino allowed smoking and you could smell this almost everywhere.

Outside of this perimeter were other parts of the Casino. This included all the restaurants, the Event Center, VIP Area and Poker Room.

We went to Tony's of North Beach and had a Roman Style Pizza. This was a flat-bread Pizza with toppings broken into 3 sections. The Pizza and service were very good but a bit pricy. For the 2 of us (no drinks and 1 desert for my son), the bill ran over $60. Not horrific, but it did feel a bit pricey.

Now neither of us really gamble, but I did look around at the Blackjack tables and found the minimum bets were between $10 and $50.

My one question when I went there from a Business Coaching standpoint was: "Is this going to have significant synergy with the Winery Hospitality Business?" My answer to that is no, at least not directly. The crowd, services, location, and feel are so different that I see these as attracting different groups. If some that come to the Casino begin to think more about Sonoma County as a destination, I am sure that will help the Wineries and Wine Tourism. I think this will be a small effect.

But for everyone, this is clearly a HUGE business with LOTS of people coming there daily. Businesses located near it will surely get some overflow business. On top of that, the Graton folks should consider using local business services wherever possible to help create positive local feelings.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!


Jim Sackman
FocalPoint Business Coaching
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