Gaming, golf, grapes, groups, dining, diversions and culture @ Pechanga


Original Land Owners

The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians has inhabited the Temecula Valley, CA since the beginning of time. Even though they were “here first,” they had to wait until 18820 to be officially recognized as a sovereign, land-based organization, by an Executive Order from the President of the USA. The organization is committed to improving the environment, education status, health, safety and general welfare of its members and surrounding community.


The Pechanga Indians took this treaty and turned it into a multi-billion-dollar opportunity, creating what is considered to be the best casino in Southern California, by the readers of the Orange County Register and the USA Today readers determined it was the best casino in the U.S (2015).

Pechanga Entrepreneurs

In 1988, Congress enacted IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) a federal statue governing Indian gaming in the US. It provides a statutory basis for the operation of gaming by Indian tribes as a means of promoting tribal economic development, self-sufficiency, and strong tribal governments.

The statute shields it from organized crime and other corrupting influences, and ensures that the Indian tribe is the primary beneficiary of its gaming operation and that gaming will be conducted fairly and honestly by the operator and players. It also established an independent federal regulatory authority for gaming on Indian lands, federal standards for gaming on Indian lands and a National Indian Gaming Commission.

The Pechanga Indians built their first resort in 2002. It has been so successful that the Tribe decided to expand its operations. The new construction which, when completed (with a $285 million investment), will be the largest casino/hotel/entertainment complex on the west coast. The property will have an additional 568 rooms and suites, 70,000 square feet of indoor event space, a luxury, 2-story spa and salon, 4.5-acre resort pool complex, plus 2-new restaurants. Recently opened is a 2400 space parking garage as well as 44 electric vehicle charging stations and 3-Tesla Superchargers.


Enhanced by Pechanga Heritage

In many circumstances, a new casino/resort is not a welcomed neighbor. Local residents raise issues of increased vehicular traffic, drugs, alcohol and crime. This is not the case with the Pechanga property in Temecula, in fact, it has been the main source of tribal government funding for long-needed and previously unaffordable infrastructure on the reservation. The income from the enterprise has enabled the tribe to upgrade roads, housing, and the water system, and to connect lines to the regional wastewater treatment system and offers employment opportunities to tribal members as well as the surrounding communities.

The tribe also provides public safety on the reservation as well as emergency services, a fire station, fire personnel, and licensed EMS. The income from the casino has enabled the Band to develop a Community Park, Youth Center, Senior Center and 70,000 sq. ft. Tribal Government Center.


The Great Oak (Wi’áaşal)

Visitors to Pechanga have access to 24/7 gaming, dining and entertainment. They also have the opportunity to learn about the Pechanga culture. Near the resort, on the Pechanga reservation, guests can visit The Great Oak (by appointment). In addition to being beautiful and awesome, the Great Oak and the land from which it grows, represents, to the Pechanga people, the identity and character of the Pechanga Band: strength, wisdom, longevity and determination.


Paul Macarro, Pechanga Cultural Director

The Great Oak is the largest naturally grown indigenous live oak in the Western United States. The trunk is over 20 feet in circumference and the above-ground portion of the tree is nearly 100 feet tall. The largest branches reach the ground, supporting the tree’s weight, creating a sheltering canopy. Over 1000 years old it is it one of the oldest living oak trees in the Western United States. In spite of its age, it still produces acorns, a food that sustained native Californians for thousands of years before the Europeans arrived. Pechanga children transplant the tiny acorn saplings that sprout under the Great Oak’s canopy into pots. When the sprouts are large enough, the children plant them on other parts of the reservation.


Lee Torres, Pechanga Resort and Casino, GM

As the General Manager of the Pechanga Resort/Casino complex, Lee Torres works in cooperation with the Pechanga Development Corporation, directing the $285 million expansion. He has been with the organization for over 6 years, and previously served as its chief officer and vice president of marketing. Credited as being instrumental with the success of the enterprise and having it named the No. 1 casino in the US, Torres also has the distinction of being the first General Manager to be promoted from within the organization.

Noted as an expert in casino operations, Torres was previously associated with Harrah’s and MGM Resorts. His extensive casino expertise includes marketing, player development, VIP services, database/marketing analytics, advertising, public relations, business development, sponsorships, group sales and bussing, plus event hotel revenue management. He received his BS degree in business management from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (1998).

Diversions Rule

Regardless of your mood, state of mind, or interests, you will find something of interest at Pechanga.


1. Want to do absolutely nothing? Head to the Spa.


2. Interested in a bit more activity? Take the hotel shuttle bus to the golf course.
3. Feeling sweaty after a round of golf, change into a swim suit and head for the pool.
4. Feeling lucky and believe you can take your small gaming budget and turn it into thousands of dollars? Schedule play time at the casino.
5. Hungry? No need to move very far. Pechanga restaurants offer bits, bites and gourmet dining options that range from domestic to international.


Breakfast at Blends Coffee/Wine Bar


Japanese lunch and dinner at Umi Sushi & Oyster Bar

Dining in the New Year

Foodies will be happy with new dining focus in the Pechanga expansion program


At the new Lobby Bar Chef Jose recommends:

• Brussels Sprouts Salad, with Bourbon Pickled Butternut Squash, Bosc Pears, Country Ham, and a Walnut Pomegranate Vinaigrette

• Diver Scallops with Roasted Mushrooms, Brussels Sprouts & Parmesan Purée, Cider Braised Fennel

• Braised Short Ribs with Potato Rosti, Baby Carrots, Cabbage Mostarda, and Horseradish Gremolata.


Chef Ronnel suggestions at the new Pool Bar & Grille include:

• Roasted Garlic and Herb Hummus

Slices of carrots, cucumber, organic cauliflower, celery, grape tomatoes & fried Naan bread

• Margherita Flatbread pizza

Fresh Mozzarella cheese, house made pizza sauce, Heirloom tomatoes, organic arugula, basil pesto and Balsamic reduction


Culinary Artist and Pastry Chef Jean Jacques Granet presents works of art:

· Giant Raspberry Macarons, Vanilla Cream Diplomat and Raspberry Sauce

· Warm Walnut Cake, Amaretto sauce, Cookies and Cream Ice Cream

· Rum Baba, Vanilla custard and Pineapple Compote

Getting to Pechanga

Temecula is located near numerous international airports including:

• Los Angeles (LAX) – 92 miles from Pechanga

• San Diego (SAN) – 57 miles to Pechanga

• Ontario International (ONT) – 53 miles from Temecula

Staying local and need a ride? The Resort offers daily shuttles throughout the Southern California area. Schedules and reservations are available through the Motor Coach office.

For additional information, click here.

© Dr. Elinor Garely. This copyright article, including photos, may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.


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