In an effort to appeal to non-gamblers and loyalty card holders, California tribes are investing in resort amenities, including pools, event space for conventions or concerts, and additional hotel rooms.
Tribal casinos in Orange County, Calif., are investing millions to upgrade their properties to retain longtime fans—the people who carry loyalty cards in their wallets—while attracting casual players and even nongamblers, the Santa Ana-based Orange County Register reported.
The push is a response to marketing surveys that say customers have grown to expect such amenities when visiting casino properties. And the tribes want to make sure their casinos stand out from the competition, the Register reported.
The amenities also are designed to generate more profit from each customer’s visit and create new revenue streams that could shield tribes from threats to the long-established tribal-gaming monopoly in the state, threats that include the possible legalization of online gaming and increased competition from card rooms and racetracks in California, the Register reported.
“We diversify because we don’t know if this will last forever,” said Daniel Tucker, whose Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in San Diego County owns hotels, office space and golf courses.
Near Temecula, the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians is investing about $285 million in a proposed expansion of its resort and casino that will include a new wing, doubling the number of hotel rooms to 1,065 from 517. Other additions include a 4-acre “resort-style” pool complex and 67,000 sq. ft. of space that can be used for conventions, concerts or sporting events, the Register reported.
“As our region grows and matures, we must do so as well to position ourselves for the next 20 years,” Pechanga Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said in a November statement. “We believe this project will take us there.”
The Pechanga renovation comes on the heels of the recent expansion of Harrah’s Resort Southern California by Caesars Entertainment, which pumped millions into the casino it manages on the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians reservation in northern San Diego County, the Register reported.
In the Coachella Valley, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians last year closed the Spa Resort Hotel in Palm Springs to make way for a 10-story, crescent-shaped replacement that will double the number of rooms and boost the gambling area of the facility’s casino, the Register reported.
On the other side of the mountains, the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians has been working for years to add more than 500 acres of land to its reservation to facilitate the construction of a casino and hotel complex, the Register reported.
Tribes don’t release internal data showing how much money they take in from gambling and nongambling sources—such as hotel rooms and food and drink sales—but Las Vegas properties do, and the neon-clad hotels on the Strip have become much more dependent on nongambling revenue in recent years, the Register reported.
In fiscal 2014, gaming accounted for just 36.6 percent of the revenue produced by an average Las Vegas Strip casino, according to the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
On the average Indian casino property, gambling makes up about 80 percent to 95 percent of the revenue, said Alan Meister, an Irvine-based economist who has done extensive research and analysis of Indian gaming, the Register reported.
“It varies widely across Indian gaming, in part because of the different conditions that tribes face in different locations,” he said.
Janet Beronio, General Manager of Harrah’s Resort, said regional markets, such as some of the tribal casinos in Southern California, likely will follow the arc of Las Vegas properties and see their revenue from nongambling sources eclipse that from gambling, but it may take time to get there, the Register reported.
As in Las Vegas, entertainment—including top-selling music acts, boxing matches and comedy shows—is a key drawing card of casino-based developments on Inland reservations, the Register reported.
San Manuel Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena said the biggest reason for the entertainment is to attract more people to the casino, restaurants, lounge and other attractions, and to generate word-of-mouth that will bring those customers’ friends to San Manuel, the Register reported.
The Morongo Casino Resort & Spa patrons can dance the night away in a club, watch big-name music and comedy acts in the grand ballroom, zip down a water slide into a pool bordered by a sandy “beach” and private cabanas, get massages and facials at the spa, eat in one of 10 restaurants, and end the day in one of 316 rooms, suites or casitas, the Register reported.
“They’re really evolving into integrated resort models,” said Katherine Spilde, chairwoman of the Sycuan Institute on Tribal Gaming at San Diego State University.