News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Adam Eventov, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Nov. 25, 2003 - TEMECULA, Calif. -- Pechanga Resort & Casino expects to add about 1,500 new jobs when it opens new restaurants, bars and casino space at the end of next year.
The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians has started construction of a 100,000-square-foot addition to its popular casino near Temecula. The tribe opened its new 88,000-square-foot casino less than a year and a half ago.
The tribe did not disclose the cost of the self-financed project, which includes a two-story addition, a 3,200-space parking garage and a subterranean parking garage for valet customers.
The new wing is being built south of Casino Drive on the casino's east side, near the entrance to the 1,200-seat theater. The wing will feature a two-story restaurant and bar, additional gaming space, another bar and a food court with space for five dining options, said Michelle Schilder, marketing director for the casino.
"We've pretty much have outgrown our space," Schilder said by telephone.
The 522-room hotel has an average occupancy of 70 percent and often is sold out on weekends. It is not uncommon for gamblers to have to wait for one of the casino's 2,000 slot machines.
The casino currently employs 3,300 workers. New employees will do everything from administration to restaurant work, Schilder said.
Since opening in June 2002, the casino has seen a rise in its convention business, filling 40,000 square feet of rooms with military balls, business groups and various meetings. The convention area has 34 events planned for 16 days in December, Schilder said.
While details of the restaurants are still being worked out, the casino has preliminary plans to add more gaming. California limits Indian casinos to 2,000 slot machines but does not limit the number of gaming tables, said Gary Qualset, deputy director of licensing and compliance for the California Gambling Control Commission. Pechanga has 85 gaming tables.
Gamblers sometimes to have to wait for one of the casino's 2,000 slot machines.
The added space will give Pechanga room to add electronic bingo machines and variations of roulette and craps that use cars instead of a roulette wheel or dice, Schilder said. A smoke-free gambling area is included in the plans for the new wing.
"The goal is to enhance the overall entertainment experience," Schilder said.
Traditional craps and roulette are prohibited in California, and the legality of the card-based roulette and craps games is being investigated, Qualset said.
Industry experts believe the added casino space could accommodate more slot machines if Gov. Schwarzenegger negotiates a new deal with the gaming tribes that increases the number of slot machines in exchange for a cut of the take. No timeframe for negotiations has been set, but the state's share of gaming revenues could be between 5 percent and 25 percent, said I. Nelson Rose, a Whittier Law School professor and a leading gambling law expert.
Pechanga is building the four-story parking garage on the northern side of the casino along Casino Drive to replace some of the parking that was lost when the new casino and resort was built in 2002. Pechanga officials expect to complete the new parking structure in September with the entire project finishing in December 2004.
A 1,200-space parking lot to the west of the casino was added earlier this year to replace some of the parking space lost to the new construction.
The expansion and possibility of more slot machines was welcome news for Joe Moravicik, a Pechanga customer from Aliso Viejo.
"On the weekends, you have to wait for a slot machine. If they expand, that will be nice," he said.
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(c) 2003, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.