Slot machines springing up across region, thanks to voters

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By Michelle DeArmond -- The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (MCT) - Less than two months after California voters approved gaming expansion deals, Inland tribal casinos have installed thousands of new slot machines and are preparing to add more.

Californians voted in early February to let four southern California Indian casinos add a combined total of 17,000 slot machines in exchange for sharing some of the revenue with the state. Each of the tribes was allowed to operate 2,000 slot machines under the previous agreements.

An additional tribe, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, received permission earlier this year to add 5,500 new slot machines, but did not have to get voter approval. The tribe already is advertising that it has 3,500 machines in place - up from 2,000.

The Morongo Casino Resort & Spa is operating 2,910 machines in its main casino and an additional 40 Las Vegas-style slot machines in the building that housed the former Casino Morongo, said Patrick Dorinson, a public relations consultant for the tribe.

Morongo operates its casino near Cabazon. The tribe may add 500 more slot machines in the next few months, Dorinson said.

The Pechanga Resort & Casino near Temecula previously operated the maximum number of machines - 2,000 - and additional video bingo machines that were similar to slot machines.

The casino has 1,300 new slot machines in place and is converting about 500 video bingo machines to slot machines, said Amy Minniear, president of the Pechanga Development Corp.

Morongo and Pechanga have agreements allowing them to add 5,500 new machines, so they could add many more if they wish.

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, which signed a deal for 3,000 new machines, also is adding machines to its two casinos.

Previously, the tribe split its 2,000 slot machine allotment between its casinos near Rancho Mirage and in Palm Springs.

That tribe also got permission to open a third casino.

The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa near Rancho Mirage plans to have 1,900 slot machines in place by mid-April, said Nancy Conrad, press secretary for the tribe. The Spa Resort Casino in downtown Palm Springs has limited floor space, but officials hope to add about 16 to 20 additional machines there, she said.

Copyright (c) 2008, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.