San Diego

San Diego Feeling Casino Industry Construction Boom

There's a unique construction boom happening in San Diego right now, but you'll only find the evidence in the most northern and eastern parts of our county.

Indian Reservations are vying for your business with high-priced and luxurious casino additions.

The latest example of how our county's Indian gaming industry is taking off like never before can be found with Sycuan's first-ever hotel and expanded casino.

It opens in exactly three weeks and the last-minute push to make deadline, which has been two years in the making, has the job site pretty busy.

"It's pretty frantic inside and outside,” Cody Martinez, Tribal Chairman for the Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Nation, said.

Hundreds of construction workers are putting the finishing touches on the $260 million expansion project.

Around the project it seems like the sky is the limit - as a 300-room hotel, complete with a spa, fitness center and lazy river, awaits its grand opening.

"When this casino opened in 1983, I was 2 years old. So I've grown up with it in my backyard, so it’s passionate for us, because this is everything. It's our life,” Martinez said.

Based on the green hillsides - you'd think it’s raining cash in this quiet valley, but then you realize similar build-ups are happening all across our county.

Most of the 10 casinos serving San Diego recently underwent major construction.

The Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula will soon be known as the largest casino resort on the west coast once a $300 million expansion is complete. A new hotel tower will highlight $170 million worth of improvements at Pala Casino, and Barona is working on a sprawling casino expansion, too.

Also adding to all of the local casino-related construction costs – which in the last few years alone have already surpassed $1 billion -- is another new hotel at Viejas.

"And even though we're genetically related, and family related to the other tribes, it is a business competition. We're in to provide the best gaming experience for customers,” Martinez said.

Sycuan's expansion was fueled by a new pact with the state of California allowing them to increase their number of gaming devices from 2,000 to 2,500.

The continuation of a bustling economy only strengthened their bet to go bigger. But, more and more, the tribal groups are looking to non-gambling additions to separate themselves. This means more high-end hotels and restaurants, but also breweries and activities for the kids.

"We have to be able to provide amenities customer has come to expect,” Martinez said.

San Diego County is considered the most crowded Indian casino market in the nation, but at its current building pace, elbow room shouldn't be a problem.

Boosters say all of the expansion projects are leading to thousands of new jobs. Sycuan says it expects its latest improvements will result in the hiring of about 750 new employees.

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