As the summer winds on, few are still planning long international vacations. Instead, many Americans will spend a few days relaxing and gambling at tribal casinos. The upscale Yaamava Resort & Casino, which recently kicked off it its brand-new theater with a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert, is one such destination in Southern California.
Las Vegas is America’s best-known gambling and entertainment mecca. Less well known as destinations, but a significant presence across the United States, are casinos run by Native American bands or tribes, still often referred to as “Indian Casinos.” Yaamava Resort & Casino in Highland, California, is an example of one such casino focused on rebranding itself as a destination.
According to the website 500 Nations, California is the nation’s largest Indian gaming state with total revenues of $9 billion annually. There are 76 Indigenous gaming casinos owned by 73 of the state’s 109 tribes as well as five mini-casinos. Nationally, the number of tribal casinos grew from 406 in 2005 to 525 in 2020, an increase of over 25%.
The new 3000-seat Yaamava’ Theater marks the final phase of a $760 million dollar investment made by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in upgrading and expanding their Yaamava’ Resort & Casino.
“Yaamava’ is a native Serrano word which means spring, a time for growth and rebirth,” Afsi Bird, vice president of hotel operations, told the San Bernadino Sun last year. “Like any transformation, this change is very important to the tribe, and it’s really a great milestone for them to have this beautiful luxury resort in the making for the past three years.”
Yaamava Resort & Casinoin is a 17-floor resort with 432 rooms. It has a new pool ‘oasis’ to cool off under the hot sun, a fitness center and the Serrano Spa. The spa offers massages and services like the Amethyst & Marshmallow Soothing Facial, a Mint Soothing Manicure and Pedicure and the Nirvana Stress Relief Wrap with “nutrient-dense seaweed gel to help detoxify, hydrate and protect the skin and body.”
The hotel rooms have been remodeled and redecorated, with comfortable beds and stylish amenities. A quick trip to the 17th floor cocktail lounge provided a 15-mile view of the surrounding mountains and valleys. A post-Peppers after party showed off the big outdoor pool at Yaamava’ with available cabanas.
The resort has been moving upscale in other ways as well. Pines Modern Steakhouse at Yaamava’ Resort & Casino was a recipient of Wine Spectator’s 2022 Restaurant Awards for the second consecutive year. The award recognizes restaurants with outstanding wine programs, including wine list and service.
Entertainment will continue to be a key draw for Yaamava. The venue is partnering with entertainment giant Live Nation as its exclusive booking partner. The exciting Red Hot Chili Peppers show not only launched the Yaamava venue on April 14, but served as an intimate prelude to the band’s national stadium tour. The Grammy-award winning Red Hot Chili Peppers, who are Los Angeles natives, recently received the all-time LA honor, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Upcoming events at the state-of-the-art Yaamava’ Theater include Elvis Costello on September 3, Staind on September 17, Alice Cooper on October 7 and Earth, Wind and Fire on October 30. The theater, which has three large video walls, a broadcast-quality video room with Panasonic cameras, and two large catwalks extending into the house for greater lighting and video production adaptability, would work for private and corporate events and shows as well.
Yaamava says it offers the most gaming (also known as gambling) options of any casino in the West. Jackpot hunters can try their luck at over 6,700 slot machines in the casino, including four separate high-limit slot areas.
Geographically, Yaamava and other California tribal casinos have an advantage over Las Vegas in capturing the drive-in market. Yaamava is located about eighty miles from Los Angeles, while Las Vegas is 275 miles away.
The resort is well-situated to draw from the approximately twenty-three million people who live in Southern California. So Yaamava is constantly advertises at Los Angeles Dodger and Clippers games, for example.
Still, there is much competition for the gaming dollar, not just from Las Vegas but from other tribal casinos. And all California tribal casinos feel the growing threat from online gaming.
Yaamava’s operators, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, have joined the Rincon Band of Luisueño Indians and Wilton Ranchiera in spending at least $100 million to prevent the advent of legalized online sports betting in California. Their opponents are familiar gambling names such as BetMGM, Bally’s, Penn National Gaming, and the parent companies of FanDuel and DraftKings. The gambling interests have already contributed $100 million to their campaign.
Whatever happens with online gambling, the Yaamava’ Resort goal is to enhance its reputation as a destination, not just a gambling spot.
“For 35 years, we have provided our guests with best-in-class gaming and entertainment, and now we’re taking it to the next level with Yaamava’ Theater,” said Peter Arceo, General Manager at Yaamava’ Resort & Casino. “We are grateful for the Tribe’s vision and execution of the latest milestone in our resort and casino expansion allowing us to offer even more memorable experiences at the top entertainment destination in Southern California.”