Southeast News

Sealaska defaults on part of California casino land

Sealaska has lost some its California casino land to foreclosure. But the regional Native corporation says it won’t hinder the project.

Sealaska has been working for several years to build a hundred-million-dollar-plus hotel and casino project about 85 miles north of San Francisco. Its partner is the Cloverdale Rancheria, a Pomo Indian group.

It lost two acres to foreclosure this week. The corporation’s Rick Harris says it’s a small part of a 65-acre project. A recent study showed it was not needed.

“What we chose to do is try to negotiate a better price because the property wasn’t going to be used for casino property. The individual who owned it was not interested in any further discussion, so we felt that it was not necessary for the project. So we chose to let it go and it just goes through the normal structured foreclosure process,” Harris says.

Sealaska bought the two acres for $1.3 million, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. The newspaper reports the corporation owed just under $1 million when it defaulted on the land and it reverted to the previous owner.

The Press Democrat, about 30 miles south of Cloverdale, has covered the casino extensively. Some residents strongly oppose the project, saying it would create too much traffic and change the town’s character.

Harris says any money lost in the foreclosure will ultimately be recovered.

” We did invest some initial purchase price on the property. But it’s included as part of the overall gaming project. And as Sealaska is repaid, we’ll cover our investment,” he says.

Sealaska’s 2010 financial report, issued earlier this year, shows gaming operations losing more than $7 million during the previous two years.

The same report also said the corporation moved to end some agreements with its tribal partners in Cloverdale. But Harris says the project continues.

“We have agreements with the tribe to go forward with how to secure the financing for the project. And based upon that financing, that will help chart the course for the future,” he says.

The corporation earlier invested about $15 million in a San Diego-area casino run by the San Pasqual Indian Band. It made a sizable profit from that investment.

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