There’s Something Happening Here …

by Lou on January 26, 2009

Last Friday I walked in the Agua Caliente Casino poker room in Rancho Mirage. It’s where I usually play … only six miles from my house. It wasn’t a holiday, or a three-day weekend, and there wasn’t anything special going on.

But it was mobbed. All the tables were filled to capacity and long lines existed for the majority of games. And here we are in a recession, which made me wonder.

Earlier that week I heard a local radio interview with Richard Milanovich, chairman of the tribe that owns Agua Caliente as well as Palm Springs’ Spa Resort and Casino. Milanovich is a savvy guy who seems to have his fingers accurately on the pulse of the local economy. He said that while the tribe was feeling the economic pinch the same way everyone else was, the numbers for Agua Caliente Casino were a lot better than the numbers he was seeing for casinos in Las Vegas.

He made the point that it’s less costly for locals to play here, as well as less costly for weekend visitors from Los Angeles, and that Agua Caliente is only about 110 miles from LA, while Las Vegas was a good 250 miles from City of Angels.

I guess I didn’t really buy it at the time, but having witnessed it in person, it sure made sense to me. Of course it was impossible to tell how many poker room patrons were locals and how many journeyed there from Los Angeles or San Diego, but the room was packed and Milanovich’s assessment seemed spot on.

But I’m still a bit confused by how busy the poker room was. After all, if someone from LA is looking for a poker game, there’s no need to drive out here to find one. There are plenty of poker games right there. On the other hand, if it’s a small, weekend getaway vacation, then Agua Caliente is a less costly alternative to Las Vegas that provides full casino gambling in addition to poker—so non-poker playing family members can have their fill of slots and other games, take in shows and play golf, in addition to poker.

Now I’m wondering if this is a local phenomenon, or whether Native American casinos in your part of the country are showing better number than their bigger Las Vegas counterparts.

Lemme know … even if you’re just citing anecdotal data or subjective assessments. I’m just curious about whether local casinos seem to be surviving this economic malaise better than their major-market brethren in Las Vegas and Atlantic City?

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