Combined $1 Billion Worth in Expansions Underway at California Native Resorts

Sycuan Casino / Sycuan Casino's first-ever hotel will house 300 guest rooms, including 50 suites, in a dramatic 12-story hotel tower.

Indian Country Today

Combined $1 Billion Worth in Expansions Underway at California Native Resorts

More space, entertainment and luxury: renovations and additions are the name of the game for competitive casinos—particularly in the Sunshine State

It’s a never-ending race to enhance luxury and entertainment at resort properties across Indian country in the pursuit of casino players, golfers, pool enthusiasts, spa lovers, foodies, concert seekers and convention organizers. Competition appears particularly hot in the Sunshine State.

Recent spending on casino construction in Southern California alone is estimated to exceed $1 billion this year for Pechanga Resort & Casino ($285 million), Sycuan Casino ($226 million), Pala Casino ($170 million), Harrah’s Resort Southern California ($160 million), Viejas Casino & Resort and Barona Resort & Casino combined, the San Diego Tribune reported. Dollar amounts of some renovations were undisclosed. Considering the casino-saturated San Diego area welcomed its 10th property last year: Hollywood Casino Jamul-San Diego, stakes are high to draw market share.

Of varying scope, expense and stage of development, below are 10 significant additions recently completed or in progress across tribal lands in California.

1) Pechanga Resort & Casino: $285 Million Expansion

Pechanga Resort & Casino has always set the bar high for the industry. Come December 2017, guests at Pechanga in California’s Temecula Valley will be able to enjoy 13 restaurants, 1,100 rooms and suites, a 4.5-acre pool complex, a luxury spa, tons of event space, a beautiful golf course, and a casino floor that Edith Atwood, president of the Pechanga Development Corporation, claims will be “bigger and better than any on the west coast.”

The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians recently released a video rendering of its forthcoming additions.

2) Sycuan Casino: $226 Million Development

In March 2017, the Sycuan Band of the ­Kumeyaay Nation broke ground on its 12-story hotel and casino expansion with plans for completion in mid-2019. The $226 million development in El Cajon, California, near San Diego, will include a 300-room hotel, a 11,400-square-foot ballroom and 60,000 more feet of gaming space. Expansion of the gaming experience will include casino floor space to accommodate a total of 2,500 Class III machines, 300 Class II machines and 80 table games. Also planned are a pool with a lazy river, a separate pool for adults, a 1 1/2-acre garden, and new restaurants and bars. The enlarged gaming space will accommodate nearly 3,000 slot machines and 80 game tables.

Tribal Chairman Cody Martinez said the expansion marks “a new chapter in the rich history of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Indians…We are taking Sycuan to the next level,” reported the Times of San Diego.

Sycuan Casino has been entertaining guests since 1983 in its continually renovated facility. “The Southern California gaming experience is one that you can stay overnight at a property,” Martinez added. “It’s not just about gaming, it’s about entertainment, it’s about experience.”

The small Sycuan Band, which numbers about 130 members, operates one of the largest casinos in the area, plus a hotel and San Diego’s only three-course golf resort.

Sycuan Casino, 5469 Casino Way, El Cajon, CA 92019, (619) 916-4468,

3) Pala Casino Spa & Resort: $170 Million Expansion

A Southern California casino resort near San Diego, owned and operated by the Pala Band of Mission Indians, is investing $170 million on upgrades and expansions to its AAA Four Diamond award-winning property. Construction will begin in October 2017 and be completed in May 2019.

The bulk of the money will go toward building a 349-room hotel tower, bringing total accommodations to 854. Hotel suites will overlook the Starlight Theater event lawn and the new pool and entertainment complex. The swimming area will undergo transformations into a multi-pool complex. The spa will also be remodeled and enlarged. Plans further call for resort-wide interior renovations to the existing hotel tower and entire casino. The casino floor will be enlarged by 12,000 square feet to fit 500 new slot machines and a casino bar. The tribe is also completely remodeling its restaurant promenade.

“Our ability to exponentially expand and refresh Pala Casino Spa & Resort is a true testament to, not only the growth of Pala, but also to the thriving economy and the continued strength of the gaming industry in California,” said Robert Smith, Chairman of the Pala Band of Mission Indians in a statement. “This is a significant milestone for our Tribe and we look forward to continuing to exceed the expectations of our loyal patrons.”

This marks the property’s third major expansion since its opening in 2001. Among other recent, smaller additions, in summer 2016, the resort completed its $5.6 million, 10-acre recreational vehicle (RV) facility expansion. And in May 2015, the resort debuted the CAVE, its $5.7 million renovation that includes a restaurant, lounge and 2,400-square-foot underground wine cave, complete with a stage for jazz and R&B performers. The CAVE’s subterranean wine bar offers 480 wines from around the world.

Pala Casino Spa & Resort, 11154 CA-76, Pala, CA 92059, (877) 946-7252,

4) Harrah’s Resort Southern California: $160 Million Overhaul

The Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians has spent about $160 million since 2014 expanding its casino and resort. Last summer, Harrah’s Resort began its $14 million renovation, another phase of its $160 million overhaul. The reinvigorated resort today features a second hotel tower, Spiked cocktail bar, Corked wine and beer bar, a convention and entertainment center, and a new indoor/outdoor restaurant: ‘ritas Cantina.

The transformed Spa at Harrah’s debuted in summer 2017. The new, 11,000-square-foot tranquil space relaxes guests with cedar-lined saunas, steam rooms, saltwater baths, relaxation lounges, a full-service salon, barbershop and 15 treatment rooms (including a couple’s room).

Last year, the resort tapped into beer tourism, revealing the country’s first tribal-run brewery SR76, where guests enjoy in-house brews in the 5,000-square-foot space.

Among other unique features, the features a swim-up bar and a 400-foot long “lazy river” pool.

Harrah’s Resort Southern California, 777 Harrah’s Rincon Way, Valley Center, CA, 619.255.7069,

5) Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino: $23.5 Million Entertainment Center

On July 27, the Tachi Yokut tribe broke ground for its new $23.5 million entertainment center at Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino. The destination in Lemoore, California, on the Santa Rosa Rancheria, will soon feature movie theaters, a bowling alley, billiards room, arcade and concourse, a bar and concessions area for cocktails and refreshments. The 88,350-square-foot entertainment center is slated to open in October 2018. The new center, designed by FFKR Architects, will create more than 70 full and part time jobs.

Currently, Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino is home to 2,000 gaming machines, 24 table games, 7 poker tables, 255 guest rooms, a spa, five restaurants, and 6,000 square feet of meeting space, employing more than 1,200 people. The resort regularly hosts national entertainment, and the hotel offers 255 luxurious rooms and suites.

Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino, 17225 Jersey Ave, Lemoore, CA 93245, (559) 924-7751,

6) Viejas Casino & Resort

The Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians has not released the cost of their renovation project scheduled for completion in early 2018. The tribal council “topped off” the final steel beam on its third hotel—a new five-story, all-suites hotel—on June 2, 2017. (The resort debuted its second luxury hotel tower and expanded casino in October 2015.) The celebration marked a significant milestone in the Alpine-based resort’s makeover. Come fall, anticipate a new adults-only saltwater pool, a new spa, three new restaurants (a gourmet coffee shop, a pan-Asian restaurant, and a signature 250-seat restaurant), and an additional 500 slot machines in the casino.

The Park at Viejas Casino & Resort is renowned for attracting big-name entertainment, particularly this summer. The resort relaunched its Concerts in the Park series, offering an intimate, open-air concert experience. Situated adjacent to Viejas’ hotel and pool, Concerts in the Park allows guests to watch the show from the floor, cabanas, a mezzanine or balcony areas.

Viejas Casino & Resort, 5000 Willows Rd, Alpine, CA 91901, (619) 445-5400,

7) Barona Resort & Casino

The Barona Band of Mission Indians have been “modestly” renovating and expanding existing facilities at its AAA Four Diamond-rated property located in Lakeside, in northeastern San Diego County, reported the San Diego Tribune.

The resort hotel currently features 400 rooms (including 37 suites) with balconies or patios, many featuring picturesque golf-course views. This upscale casino hotel sits two miles away from Barona Cultural Center & Museum and 11 miles from El Cajon Mountain, a popular hiking destination.

For the eighth straight year, Barona Creek Golf Club at Barona Resort & Casino made Golfweekmagazine’s Top Casino Courses and gaming destinations list. Barona Creek Golf Club was the highest-ranked California property and 9th in the country. “Barona has views of the mountains and small wandering creeks that surround you. The greens are sneaky with false fronts and gapping sand traps wait to test your game,” native golf pro Issac Henry Cano previously told ICMN.

Barona has also been named Best Casino and “Loosest Slots” for six consecutive years in the San Diego’s Best Union-Tribune Readers Poll.

Barona Resort & Casino, 1932 Wildcat Canyon Rd, Lakeside, CA 92040, (619) 443-2300,