The San Diego area is home to 10 casinos (including six that offer hotel rooms) and three stand-alone poker rooms. There’s a lot of action all over town—including the hammer-and-nail variety. Pechanga, Sycuan, Viejas and other casinos are pumping a total of roughly $1 billion into expansions of gaming operations, restaurants and hotel rooms. Jamul Casino just opened a new poker room. Here’s an overview of what the region has to offer, including the mega-resort that is Pechanga, the 180-degree turn to high-end offerings at Viejas, and the hotel tower addition to Sycuan that will bump it up to a whole new category.
SAN DIEGO CASINO HOTELS
Barona Resort & Casino
Barona opened in 2002 and has steadily expanded operations on its Lakeside property. It has a “casually elegant” 400-room hotel, 11 restaurants (including the Barona Oaks Steakhouse), spa, and a championship golf course. No alcohol is allowed on the casino floor. Gaming options include 2,600-plus slot machines and a 15-table poker room. 1932 Wildcat Canyon Road, 619-443- 2300.
Harrah’s Resort Southern California
Technically, Harrah’s is located in Valley Center—but the casino-resort had the name changed to Funner. (David Hasselhoff is the unofficial mayor). Two hotel towers include 1,065 rooms (including 141 suites). There’s are nine restaurants, an 11,000-square-foot spa, and the pool scene includes a swim-up bar and a lazy river. Gaming options: 1,750 slots and a small poker room. 777 Harrah’s Rincon Way, 760-751-3100.
Pala Casino Spa & Resort
When a $170 million renovation and expansion is completed in 2018, Pala will add a 349-room hotel tower to its existing stock of 507 rooms and suites. Pala’s posh swimming pool area includes waterfalls, daybeds and fireplaces. The adjacent spa has 14 treatment rooms and outdoor massage areas. A new, 15,000-square-foot casino area will be smoke-free; there’s a small, 8-table poker room in the current casino. 11154 Highway 76, Pala. 877-946-7252.
Pechanga Resort & Casino
This mega-resort in Temecula recently finished a $300 million expansion. There are two hotel towers with a total of 1,090 rooms and suites. The casino-resort boasts a serenely beautiful new, two-story spa with 17 treatment rooms and a fitness center. The new 4.5-acre Cove pool complex includes a swim-up bar, dozens of cabanas and a pair of waterslides. Pechanga also has a golf course right out back, an event center for concerts and meetings, a comedy club and 13 eateries (Umi Sushi & Oyster Bar is a standout). The gargantuan casino floor measures 200,000 square feet; and a second-floor poker room has dozens of tables where cards are in the air all night. 45000 Pechanga Parkway, 888-732-4264.
Valley View Casino & Hotel
A $50-million renovation to boost casino operations began in 2018. There 108 hotel rooms and six restaurants, including a 560-seat buffet that promotes Endless Maine Lobster. Valley View’s infinity pool just outside the hotel boasts sprawling mountain views. The casino holds 2,000 slot machines; no poker room. 16300 Nyemii Pass Road, Valley Center. 760-291-5500.
Viejas Casino & Resort
Viejas recently completed a stunning renovation of its casino floors and built two hotels. Both hotels total 496 rooms—and the star attraction is the high-end Willows Hotel & Spa, which is all-suites and adults-only. These Alexa-stocked suites are big—ranging in size from 600 square feet up to the 1,838 square-foot Villa Suite. Many of the Willows rooms have large balconies that overlook a new, adults only pool. Also inside Willows: a luxury spa and a state-of-the-art fitness room. New restaurant offerings include the farm-centric Locale Kitchen & Lounge. There are 2,300 slot machines, and though poker rooms have come and gone at Viejas, a small version of one is expected to return. 5000 Willows Road, Alpine. 619-445-5400.
SAN DIEGO CASINO-ONLY PROPERTIES
Golden Acorn Casino
Tiny Golden Acorn doesn’t have a hotel, rather, there’s a Travel Center with showers and laundry facilities for road warriors. Golden Acorn’s casino has 750 slot machines; no poker tables. The Golden Grill’s signature dish: a $7.77 prime rib dinner. 1800 Golden Acorn Way, Campo. 866-794-6244.
It originally opened in October 2016 as Hollywood Casino Jamul-San Diego, and the rebranding to simply Jamul Casino happened in May 2018. No current plans for a hotel. The steakhouse is now called Final Cut; Tony Gwynn’s Sports Pub displays a lot of the late Mr. Padre’s memorabilia. There are 1,700 slot machines; a 10-table poker room opened in February 2019. 14145 Campo Road, Jamul. 619-315-2250.
Pauma’s operation totals 35,000 square feet, including 1,000 slot machines and, yes, a five-table poker set-up. Belly up to the bar at the Triple Seven or the Red Parrot Lounge. An 815-seat outdoor pavilion hosts concerts and events. 777 Pauma Reservation Road, Pauma Valley. 760-742-2177. casinopauma.com.
In 2019, Sycuan will hop to the other list when it completes a $226-million renovation and expansion that will ad a 12-story hotel tower with 300 rooms. Also on the way a spiffy pool and garden area that will include a lazy river. The new space will also include a conference and event center and more add to the current gaming space that numbers 850 slot machines and a solid, 19-table poker room. 5469 Casino Way, El Cajon. (619) 445-6002.
SAN DIEGO POKER ROOMS
Ocean’s 11 Casino
The action in Oceanside is at Ocean’s 11, where 31 poker tables are utilized for daily and special, big-money monthly tournaments, along with daily cash games. 121 Brooks Street, 760-439-6988.
Lucky Lady Card Room
If you like playing cards in a room that time forgot, stop by and hang with the El Cajon Boulevard locals who utilize the Lucky Lady’s half dozen tables. 5526 El Cajon Boulevard, 619-287-6690. Website? Who needs a website?
Seven Mile Casino
This small-but-mighty casino in Chula Vista has nine poker tables with some of the best local action. Seven Mile has good food, a pretty restaurant/bar area and an outdoor patio. 285 Bay Boulevard, Chula Vista, 619-425-3333. J&J