Sherry Treppa, Chairperson, Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake

Sherry Treppa, Chairperson
Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake

Running Creek Casino – Upper Lake, CA /

BENEFITS OF GAMING: The Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake Tribe resides in Upper Lake, CA, a rural area in the northern part of the state where we operate a small casino, Running Creek Casino. The Upper Lake community and surrounding county struggle with limited resources, high poverty and unemployment rates, and are long distances from larger, more populated cities.

Since opening in 2012, our tribal casino has contributed significantly to the local economy and job market, employing over 140 community members, both tribal and non-tribal. Additionally, the casino provides direct funding to the county and state fire department through a Memorandum of Understanding. Lastly, the casino development enabled the Habematolel (then landless) to restore 11.24 acres of land – the first of our efforts to reacquire land lost through our tragic history, allowing the tribe to explore non-gaming economic opportunities, which have provided significant revenue to the tribe.

Though the casino is a staple in the community and a proud accomplishment for the tribe, due to our remote location, along with the expenses of the fight to construct the casino in a highly competitive market, we have not found the success in gaming that many larger, more urban tribes have found. Unfortunately, our gaming operation has only serviced its debt (we officially retired our debt in December 2023) and is not yet producing governmental revenues or making significant contributions to the tribal economy.

Therefore, our tribe has looked to e-commerce and other investments to find new ways to fund tribal government programs and build a sustainable tribal economy to advance our objectives. Our tribe recognizes that the only way to build a secure future is by diversifying our economy.

GOALS & INITIATIVES: We are proud of our entire Running Creek Casino team and grateful for the work they do every day to provide excellent experiences and full-service gaming for all of our visitors. We are constantly exploring innovations that could make our casino more impactful for our tribe and local community. Now that the debt is retired and covenants are lifted, we will attempt to enhance the gaming experience with additional amenities and customer experiences, provided that it would prove a reasonable return on investment. 

LEGISLATIVE: Habematolel is heavily active in government outreach and advocacy at all levels. We operate under the belief that collaborative government-to-government relationships are vital to sustaining our tribe’s mission of self-sufficiency and self-determination. To that end, we have worked to develop relationships and work with local, state, and federal representatives to advocate and promote our goals and objectives, and to follow legislation, court cases and political issues that affect our tribe and Indian Country as a whole.

In California, our team works to ensure Habematolel and other tribes’ gaming operations remain protected. This includes tracking cardroom legislation such as AB 341 and SB 549, which address reinstating the statewide cardroom moratorium and determine whether certain games operated by California cardrooms violate state law and infringe upon tribal exclusive gaming rights, respectively. We have called on the California Legislature and State Attorney General to take action to address these violations and ensure that cardrooms are adhering to the law, and we will continue to do so in the 2024 legislative session.

Additionally, we are interested in the rapid emergence of remote wagering and/or internet gaming, both statewide and nationwide. We are providing feedback on state ballot measures attempting to legalize sports betting with varying tribal implications, as well as working with federal agencies addressing online gaming policies and following related court cases.

Our stance is that regulations should not impair tribes’ inherent regulatory jurisdiction and ownership over its data, regardless of the specific standards developed by federal agencies. Specifically, tribes have the same rights as other governments to assert and protect their digital jurisdiction and sovereign authority over their data related to their citizens, their businesses and enterprises, and their activities online; and the collection, use, and application of such data is subject to tribal law and policies.

With respect to these rights, last year, NCAI (through our efforts) passed a resolution calling upon the Administration, the White House Council of Native American Affairs, and federal agencies to take appropriate actions to ensure tribal digital jurisdiction is acknowledged and addressed in federal policies and actions.

Overall, we are engaged in a number of efforts, which reflect our mission of self-reliance and self-determination.  

YOUTH LEADERSHIP ADVICE: I am a strong believer in providing opportunities for young people, tribal and non-tribal, especially those who might not have the necessary resources at their disposal. That is why our tribe offers various programs and opportunities for our youth members, which help them build and develop leadership skills. My advice to our young people and future leaders is to be willing to work outside your comfort zone, get comfortable with public speaking, and over-prepare when given a task. These are pieces of advice that I learned later in life or was forced to learn that I give people early in life in order to set them on a pathway to leadership.