River Rock, Sonoma County’s oldest tribal casino, saw a rush of patrons Tuesday, capturing people who couldn’t get into the packed new Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park.
And there was a similar effect at another established casino — Hopland Sho-Ka-Wah — a little farther north in Mendocino County, where business was also booming Tuesday.
Traffic was so heavy into River Rock that the Geyserville-area casino also had to turn people away, according to Dry Creek Rancheria Pomo Chairman Harvey Hopkins.
That included “a couple buses” filled with would-be gamblers.
“We were all just surprised. We didn’t think that would happen,“ Hopkins said of the extra customers coming to River Rock, about 30 miles north of the Graton casino, which opened at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Hopkins estimated that River Rock had 40 percent more customers than it does on a typical Tuesday.
“We were at full capacity. We closed the gate,” he said.
Ramon Carrillo, general manager of the Sho-Ka-Wah casino operated by the Hopland Band of Pomo, said business was about three times as brisk as usual for a Tuesday. He said people decided to come after being turned away from the new gaming palace in Rohnert Park.
“We are at weekend capacity right now. We are definitely seeing an upswing,” he said, explaining that instead of the usual 70 to 80 slot machines in play, there were closer to 250 machines in use, similar to a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
Hopkins estimated there were around 1,800 cars that filled the garage and valet parking at the Geyserville casino.
“As far as income goes it’s great,” Hopkins said. “Normally we don’t have the buffet open (on Tuesdays). We opened it for the extra guests.”
The Dry Creek Rancheria, which has operated River Rock for 11 years, was bracing for a hit to its bottom line from the opening of the much larger Graton casino positioned closer to the populous Bay Area.