As a native Los Angelino, I’m still not used to the notion of
quality casino gaming so close to the city, but “Indian casinos”
have come a long way since their bingo parlor beginnings. With
several upscale resorts in Southern California doing a brisk
business and spending huge investment dollars, visitors are likely
to continue to enjoy getaways on the reservation.
For the Morongo Casino, Resort and Spa, it has been six months
since the unveiling of a $250 million expansion. Billing itself as
“an alternative to Las Vegas,” Morongo’s new 27-floor resort sits
between the San Gorgonio and San Jacinto mountains, offering
peaceful desert views. It was very relaxing, that is until I
ventured into Morongo’s 148,000-square-foot casino and saw a sea of
100 gaming tables and 2,000 slot machines.
The casino’s decor is tasteful, subdued and inviting. Players
seemed to be enjoying themselves. I saw high-fives at California
Craps, Blackjack, Pai Gow and other table games. The same was true
in the newly relocated poker room, upgraded to accommodate the
recent popularity of televised poker. Now, 22 tables operate with
reasonably priced daily tournaments, jackpot opportunities and,
like much of the rest of the casino, the latest in technology.
However, Morongo still honors its humble beginnings via a 600-seat
bingo hall with sessions and tournaments held daily.
What I found most impressive, however, was the efforts beyond
the casino floor. Despite a recent falling out with entertainment
partner Group N9NE (think Rain and Ghostbar at the Palms in Las
Vegas) due to a “contractual dispute,” little has changed. The
Morongo still provides multiple lounge areas, including the Pit Bar
along the casino floor, weekend music at Mystique and the reopened
Vue. The Vue, formally Spacebar, offers amazing panoramic views,
hypnotic lighting and flowing cocktails from the Morongo’s roof.
Agents should advise their clients that Vue does get crowded on the
Tower, another resort restaurant, has also reopened, featuring
top-floor views and Mediterranean cuisine. Two other closed venues
expect rebranding in the near future. Additional on-site eateries
include Potrero Canyon Buffet, which serves lunch and dinner with
semi-private seating available for groups and conventioneers.
Serrano is a 24-hour diner and there is a food court with five
restaurants, including Fatburger, Panda Express and
Outside, sun-worshipping guests can recline along the white sand
that surrounds the pool, relax in one of the two Jacuzzis or float
on a gentle current in Morongo’s circular, lazy river pool.
Sage, the new spa at the Morongo, features 15 rooms and a wide
variety of spa treatments, including exotic massages, wraps, scrubs
and facials many of these therapies originating from Native
American healing traditions. Spa day-use and couple massage options
are also available.
Clients looking for a touch of luxury may consider one of six
detached casitas that overlook the pool area and southern
mountains. Prices range $450-$950 a night based on season and room.
All casitas have private outdoor patios, lounging pools and outdoor
Adventuresome guests might get a kick out of the unique Sci-Fi
Channel casita. This lime-green-and-purple accented casita has
wild, space-age furnishings like a cobalt tube sink in the bathroom
and comes with a DVD library of select Sci-Fi Channel shows. All of
the Morongo’s 310 rooms offer complimentary cable television,
high-speed Internet access and a 27-inch flat-screen plasma TV. But
what made my stay really memorable were the cozy down-filled
pillows, duvets and plush mattresses that are in every room. I
slept like a log.
For clients looking for a break in the action, local attractions
include the Desert Hills Premium Outlets. This sprawling mega-mall
houses 130 name-brand fashion outlets. And of course, downtown Palm
Springs is a mere 20 minutes away.
While agent commission is 10 percent of room rates with a
current IATA number, there is plenty of convention space and
off-season incentives can bolster commissions. In addition,
California agents may consider looking into fams offered by the
casino several times a year.
Morongo Resort Spa and Casino
49500 Seminole Drive
Cabazon, CA 92230
Commission: 10 percent. Fams are often available too.