Pala Casino Tries to Keep Up with the Joneses with $170 Million Expansion to Southern California Resort

Posted on: July 30, 2017, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: July 30, 2017, 12:28h.

San Diego’s Pala Casino Spa & Resort announced this week that it will spend $170 million to expand and renovate its resort located 50 miles north of the Southern California city.

Pala Casino expansion renovation
San Diego’s Pala Casino will be adding hundreds of hotel rooms and expanding its pools in an effort to stave off increasing competition from other properties within proximity. (Image: Pala Casino Spa & Resort)

The investment is to better compete with its neighboring rivals, Pechanga Resort & Casino and Harrah’s Southern California. It marks the property’s third major expansion in its 16-year history.

Pala will expand its casino floor by 12,000 square feet, which will be used to accommodate 500 new slot machines. The plan will also renovate the interior of the resort, including existing hotel rooms, and transform the swimming area into a multi-pool complex. The spa will also be remodeled and enlarged.

The bulk of the money will be used to construct a 349-room hotel tower, which will bring total accommodations to 854. That will still be less than Harrah’s 1,086 rooms, and Pechanga’s ongoing expansion that will give it almost 1,100 rooms when completed this winter.

Pala Casino hopes to have its project finished by May 2019.

Gambling Sunny in California

The Pala Casino announcement is just the latest in a laundry list of resort overhauls in Southern California.

Pechanga’s current renovation is costing the tribal group $285 million. Construction is also taking place at the Barona Casino & Resort, Sycuan Casino, and Viejas Casino & Resort, all properties which are located in the San Diego area. Those tribes, however, aren’t revealing how much money they’re spending.

The Pala Band of Mission Indians says it needed to update its property to adapt to customer demand. Speaking to the pool area, which will be transformed to resemble a space typically found at major resorts in Las Vegas and to include bars, fire pits, and cabanas, Pala CEO Bill Bembenek explained that visitors are looking for a more luxurious experience.

“The consumer has changed to some degree, and the demands … necessitate an all-encompassing recreational experience. We’ve come out on the other side of the Great Recession, the economy has healed, and people are looking for ways to spend their recreational dollars,” Bembenek said in a statement.

Slow Rollout

Pala Interactive, the tribe’s internet gaming division, has been operating in New Jersey through a partnership with Borgata since the fall of 2014. has been one of four live websites under the land-based resort, the others being,, and

The New Jersey rollout was delayed for several years, while waiting for the arrival of PokerStars. But since the company’s poker site launch last month, traffic has been slow-to-nonexistent: according to PokerScout, PalaPoker is averaging just two players a week on average.

While New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement doesn’t break down internet gaming revenues by site, Borgata’s partners have generated $23.48 million in year-to-date income. Only the Golden Nugget ($33 million) has made more from iGaming.