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Big Crowds, Traffic Jam Overwhelm New Rohnert Park Casino

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Customers enter Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park, November 5, 2013. (CBS)

Customers enter Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park, November 5, 2013. (CBS)

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RONHERT PARK (KCBS)— Predictions of long lines for Tuesday’s opening day of the Graton Resort and Casino in Ronhert Park more than came true— at one point security had to shut the door on a line of slightly unruly gamblers.

The $820 million, Vegas-style Native American casino opened at 9 a.m. and within 90 minutes the facility became so crowded, front-door security started metering people inside 10 at a time.

Security had to yell at the crowd, who was reportedly pushing and shoving, to back up. By noon the building had reached capacity. A casino employee said at about 12:20 p.m. that staff had shut the doors and were only letting new people in when other visitors left.

The city of Rohnert Park tweeted late Tuesday morning, “The Graton Casino is filled to capacity at this time! Traffic through Rohnert Park and on surface streets in this area is extremely congested.”

The city tweeted about noon, “Casino is full. Casino patrons should consider returning tomorrow or another time when more casino access is possible.”

Casino spokeswoman Lori Nelson disputed that, saying there was still space both in the casino and the parking lot and that people should still come by.

“The crowds came in with smiles on their faces and were rushing to see the sights,” Nelson said. “I was overwhelmed by how many people turned out on opening morning.”

Nelson said about 20 buses full of visitors showed up unannounced Tuesday morning.

“We did not organize those bus tours, it appears that outside companies organized those and brought them up,” she said.

The California Highway Patrol was warning motorists that U.S. Highway 101 was gridlocked near the casino, and recommended that drivers use state Highway 116 to Stony Point Road as an alternate route.

City officials also noted that Redwood Drive has been closed at Golf Course West because of heavy traffic, and that there is congestion on Commerce Avenue.

Once customers did get inside to the 340,000 square foot facility, they had another three-hour wait for pre-paid player’s cards that the casino had loaded up for customers to get their cash.

One woman said her card didn’t work and she had three different employees walk her to machines to try and get the card to work. Other players concurred, but chalked it up to first-day glitches. Another woman said she put $500 in a machine and hadn’t won dime back.

Aside from complaints of poor organization, lack of planning and the opening-day kinks, most customers said they were having a good time and some came from as far away as Sacramento and San Jose.

Graton Resort boasts 3,000 slot machines, 144 blackjack tables, video poker machines and four full-service restaurants. The facility is located in wine country about 50 miles north of San Francisco.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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