Morongo Casino Unveils California Expansion Plans, Adding 800 Slots, 30,000 Square Feet of Gaming Space

Posted on: September 17, 2019, 12:15h. 

Last updated on: September 17, 2019, 01:53h.

The Morongo Casino Resort & Spa, one of the largest tribal gaming venues in Southern California, is planning to get even bigger.

Already one of Southern California’s largest casinos, Morongo is adding to its gaming space in a big way. (Image: Riverside Press-Enterprise)

The Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the operator of the casino in Cabazon, Calif. near Palm Springs, is planning a 65,000-square-foot expansion that will increase the size of its gaming area by 30 percent, while adding 800 slot machines. Currently, Morongo’s casino has 150,000 square feet of gaming space, with more than 2,600 slots and 74 table games. The venue also has a 400-seat bingo hall.

Morongo’s renovation plans include a new watering hole, lounges, and a non-smoking space. The casino will be spruced-up with new carpeting and lighting, while some of the dining options on the premises will be changed. The resort now has six restaurants and a food court.

A 30 percent addition to its gaming floor will take Morongo to 195,000 square feet, just below the 200,000 square feet at rival Southern California tribal property Pechanga Resort and Casino. Located in Temecula, Calif., Pechanga is one of the largest casinos in the Western US, and bigger than any gaming venue in Las Vegas. The Agua Caliente in Rancho Mirage, a Palm Springs competitor to Morongo, has 71,000 square feet of gaming space.

Morongo’s expansion is expected to add 425 jobs to the current headcount of 2,500, according to the tribe.

The tribe is the real economic driver in the pass area,” said Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin in an interview with the Desert Sun. I really like that, that were able to provide those types of jobs.”

Morongo, which attracts an estimated 15 million visitors per year, did not give a specific date for when the project will be completed.

Important Geography

California is home to over 60 tribal gaming venues, which typically combine to generate $8 billion or more in annual gross gaming revenue (GGR). That accounts for approximately a quarter of the annual national GGR tally from tribal casinos.

While just a third of the Golden State’s casinos are located in the region defined as Southern California (areas south of Bakersfield), properties in Riverside and San Diego counties hold nearly half the state’s slot machines. Agua Caliente, Morongo and Pechanga are all located in Riverside County, an area with a population of 2.42 million, located east of Los Angeles and Orange County.

Southern California casinos consistently fight to keep gamblers home and away from Las Vegas. While that’s a tough battle, tribal venues in the southern part of the largest US state have made some admirable efforts.

For example, as the Desert Sun notes, previous entertainment acts at Morongo have included Beyonce and Jay Leno. The venue’s upcoming performers include 98 Degrees and Patti LaBelle.

Keeping Up With The Competition

Using expansions and renovations to stave off competition and lure gamblers is nothing new for Southern California tribes.

Last year, Pechanga put the finishing touches on a $300 million refurbishment, while Agua Caliente opened several new dining options and other attractions, including a sports area that positions the venue to be ready for sports betting, should California permit that activity in the future.

The San Manuel Casino in Highland, Calif., with 120,000 square feet of gaming area, 4,700 slots and more than 100 table games, is in the midst of a $550 million expansion project that is expected to be finalized before the end of 2019.