GAMBLING IN THE GOLDEN STATE
California’s top native american casinos
By Karrie L. Zukowski
The rise of Native American casinos has been dramatic over the past years, a growing trend that has brought the excitement of gambling and the casino lifestyle to players everywhere. But what you see today did not simply happen overnight. Indeed, many tribal properties had humble beginnings, opening originally with limited space and scope, serving only as a bingo hall for area residents. But they thrived and in due time began to grow and expand and challenge the gambling giants in Vegas and Atlantic City. Fast-forward a decade and Native American casinos dot the landscape, offering players the thrill of casino gambling coupled with the right-next-door convenience.
Here are our selections for some of the top tribal properties in California. Each one has its own merits, nuances, and surprises. But all are fantastic casinos and well worth your time to visit.
CHUMASH CASINO RESORT SANTA YNEZ, CA
After more than two years of planning, constructing and molding its ambitious vision for an expanded facility and heightened guest experience, Chumash Casino Resort is ready to show the world that it has risen to a new level.
Visitors who have made the trip to Santa Barbara’s beautiful wine country and experienced Chumash Casino Resort in the past will be blown away by the facility’s transformation into a world-class resort. The property is now complete with a 12-story hotel tower, an exquisite rooftop pool, a spacious-yet-tranquil spa, multiple food outlets and an expanded casino floor that allows guests to indulge in one of the top entertainment experiences in the gaming industry.
In May 2016, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians revealed its expanded resort to VIPs and dignitaries, showcasing all of the new elements that take Chumash Casino Resort to another level.
The main attraction remains the gaming floor, which expanded by 27,000 square feet. It features 2,300 of the hottest slot machines, dozens of table games, bingo, a new poker room and the same weekly luxury car drawings that guests have enjoyed since the property opened in 2003.
The AAA Four Diamond-rated Chumash Casino Resort Hotel has also grown by adding a 135-foot tower, which increases occupancy from 106 rooms and 15 suites to 320 rooms and 55 suites. The tower’s 12-floor suites give guests exquisite views of the Santa Ynez Valley, and some will have a bird’s-eye view of the new resort’s gem – the rooftop pool.
With a pool deck that spans nearly 15,000 square feet, the rooftop pool is equipped with lounge chairs, cabanas, fire pits, dining options and an outdoor pool ambiance that is unmatched in Santa Barbara County.
Visitors who seek restorative indulgence will be pleased to learn that the hotel’s spa has doubled in size to feature nine treatment rooms, two esthetic rooms, wet and dry saunas, female and co-ed lounges, and outdoor mineral pools.
Chumash Casino Resort’s $165 million casino-hotel expansion project placed significant emphasis on increasing the number of dining options on the property and refining its popular offerings – the AAA Four Diamond-rated Willows restaurant, the Buffet and Chumash Café.
Willows and the Buffet were remodeled and opened to rave reviews in late 2015. The new and expanded Chumash Café opened in May along with an all-new food court, which offers four separate outlets and designated seating. The resort’s new retail bridge, which links guests from the self-parking garage to the gaming floor, also has food options. One favorite will be The Sweet Stop, which proudly serves Starbucks coffee.
The new Chumash Casino Resort will celebrate its unveiling throughout the summer by showcasing world-class talent in its remodeled Samala Showroom. Get ready for Rascal Flatts (July 14), Jerry Seinfeld (July 21) and Stevie Wonder (July 24).
Chumash Casino Resort offers the ultimate escape, yet it’s only a short drive away. What are you waiting for?
AGUA CALIENTE CASINO RESORT Rancho Mirage, California
Owned and operated by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, this luxurious four-diamond casino resort is celebrating its 15th anniversary in style. The property is a full-service resort catering to every kind of gambler and featuring an elegant 16-story hotel with spectacular views of the San Bernadino and San Jacinto Mountains. Each of the 340 rooms feature cozy bedding, flat-screen televisions, and sunken tubs and a modern, cool decor that make for a great night away from home.
The casino itself is a player’s paradise, offering 71,000 square feet of the area’s best gaming with slots, video poker, table games, plus, the valley’s only private poker room, and high-limit gaming in an upscale, private atmosphere.
Wonder Woman, Ellen Degeneres, and Britney Spears are in the house! Just to name drop a few among the 1250 machines that grace the spacious gaming floor. The casino also offers 36 table games with all the favorites, including blackjack, commission free mini baccarat, commission free pai gow poker, mystery card roulette, and Hot Water craps, along with the best selection of progressive novelty games in the valley such as three card poker, ultimate Texas hold’em, crazy 4 poker, and the classic let it ride.
Poker players can get in on the action at the 18-table Poker Room in live games or tournament action. Get dealt in on Texas hold’em, Omaha, and other popular variations with numerous promotions and regular tournaments.
Dining options are plentiful with numerous types of cuisine. A few favorites include: the award-winning Steakhouse for delectable seafood, steak, and wonderful service; Waters Cafe for American classics mixed with unique California cuisine; the Grand Palms buffet for the best in Asian, Mexican, Italian, and American classics; and Java Caliente for gourmet coffee and fresh pastries, bagels, and more. The Poker Deli also offers up great burgers, sandwiches, soups, salads, and desserts for those who don’t want to miss any of the action.
For a great night out, head over to The Lounge for nightly live music (for free) and a cocktail. Enjoy a cool cocktail in a relaxed atmosphere at the Rendezvous lounge. Away from the casino, soak up some sun and sip a drink poolside in the 50,000-square foot outdoor playground featuring two swimming pools, a jetted spa, and comfortable cabanas with access to a full-service outdoor bar and grill. Need more relaxation? Select a package from the award-winning, 10,500-square foot SunStone Spa – from mani/pedis and makeovers to massages and body scrubs. The positive energy is truly invigorating, and spa specials and packages are available. Simply put – this property is a vacation in one easy location. For more information visit: www.HotWaterCasino.com
VALLEY VIEW CASINO & HOTEL Valley Center, California
One of our all-time favorite properties—not to mention a big hit with Strictly Slots readers—Valley View Casino & Hotel is a luxurious boutique hotel that combines the best San Diego gaming experience with the comfort of beautifully-appointed rooms, breathtaking views, first-class guest service and a complimentary VIP breakfast.
Located in Valley Center, the 108 luxurious rooms at Valley View include 96 deluxe rooms and 12 luxury suites and boast an infinity pool as well as breathtaking views of the Palomar Mountain Range. And remember, Valley View has a 21-and-over policy that means at this Southern California casino resort you can truly relax and get away from it all—sans the kids.
Valley View offers a world-class gaming experience through the most innovative slot machines, thrilling table games, a lucrative Players Club, unparalleled guest service, a Certified Largest Non-Smoking Casino Area and more. Enjoy the casino lifestyle in a completely gorgeous setting complete with a beautifully updated VIP Lounge. Who knows, you could even hit a jackpot on any one of San Diego’s only Certified Loose slot machines.
When you’re ready to relax by the water’s edge, pay a visit to Valley View’s spectacular infinity pool offers a soothing environment surrounded by the boundless beauty of the Palomar Mountain Range. Take just a few steps from their luxury hotel and you can lounge poolside with a snack or a cold drink, cool down with a dip in the refreshing water and take in the stunning surroundings.
If you’re looking for a good time and want the best live entertainment experience, visit the Valley View Casino Center. It has been a San Diego concerts staple since 1966 and welcomes more than 600,000 guests annually. It has become a must-play tour stop for groundbreakings artists such as the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and U2. Recent acts include Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Pitbull, Florence and the Machine and LMFAO, as well as worldclass sporting events and family shows. For more information or to view upcoming shows, visit valleyviewcasinocenter.com
As another way to thank you for being a loyal guest, Valley View has partnered with San Diego’s premier entertainment venue to give you even more exclusive perks that you can’t get anywhere else. This includes access to the best tickets for top shows and the star treatment in the on-site Stella Artois Lounge. You’ll receive attention that mirrors the first-class guest service you experience at Valley View Casino & Hotel. For more information visit www.valleyviewcasino.com.
MORONGO CASINO, RESORT & SPA Cabazon, CA
Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa is more than just a hot spot to gamble. It’s a place where you can enjoy everything from luxury accommodations to fine dining and performances by top artists—all located just minutes from Los Angeles, Orange County, the Inland Empire and Palm Springs.
However, it didn’t start out that way.
Morongo Casino, owned by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, started as a simple bingo hall located on the 35,000 acre reservation, in 1983. Having grown into the present $250 million destination it is today, Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa continues to lead the pack, remaining one of the oldest, largest and most successful tribal gaming facilities in the nation.
The casino floor pulsates 24/7 with exciting gaming action that includes friendly dealers, great payouts, over 2,800 of the newest and hottest slot machines and all your favorite table games. Morongo is also a favorite dining destination with fantastic restaurants, including Tacos & Tequila, Natural 9 Noodle Company and a world-class gourmet buffet.
And 27 floors above the desert is Cielo, the property’s AAA Four Diamond and Wine Spectator award winning steak and seafood restaurant, which offers stunning views of the mountain sunsets. Inside Cielo, you will dine with an array of elegant color changing, yet dazzling, chandeliers just above your head, creating the perfect ambiance in the breath-taking atmosphere, while you enjoy a succulent dinner served to you by one of their prestigious chefs.
After enjoying some fine dining, visit the new MeBar, conveniently located off of the casino floor. Belly up to a bar-top slot and order yourself a picture perfect drink. This is a good time worth sharing, so snap a selfie or a shot of your camera-ready concoction and get ready for your star turn as your posts to Twitter and Instagram pop-up on the bar’s TVs (as long as you tag Morongo, of course)!
And if that’s not enough, Morongo wants to sweep you away from the desert and take you into their tropical paradise, Oasis Pool. Inspired by the South Pacific, Oasis Pool is truly among the best hotel pools in Southern California, equipped with its lazy river, sandy beach and two-heated spa tubs on different levels. Adding to the luxurious experience, you will find yourself surrounded by lush gardens, exclusive cabanas and plush chaise lounges. This is one destination well worth making a splash about.
Adding to the gratifying experience, Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa is taking good times to new heights with the opening of their brand new High Limit Room. Designed for VIP casino players with sophisticated tastes, Morongo’s new High Limit Room is impeccably designed with Asian-inspired décor that invokes principles of Feng Shui and features traditional symbols of luck—which will come in handy in the High Limit Room, featuring sixdeck and double-deck blackjack, as well as Macau-Style Squeeze Baccarat. In addition to thrilling gaming, visitors to Morongo’s High Limit Room receive unsurpassed levels of 24/7 VIP service, including access to an array of unique tea selections, a premium bar and delicious food from Morongo’s famous restaurants like Cielo Steakhouse and Café Serrano.
For more information visit www.morongocasinoresort.com.