Palm Springs casino
has Vegas touch

Nov 11, 2003 6:35 AM

One of California’s newest and most lavish casinos, the Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs, recently opened its doors, thanks in part, to a very strong Las Vegas connection.

Mike Moore, a longtime gaming executive, has assumed the reins of vice president of gaming for the resort casino that will celebrate its formal grand opening on Thursday.

In addition, Las Vegas’ IXTAPA gaming supplied all of the casino’s live gaming facilities (tables, signage, etc.), lighting and other fixtures.

IXTAPA, which began operations in Las Vegas two years ago, specializes in outfitting casinos. Previous customers have included Terrible’s Casino, the upscale Mansions high-stakes room at MGM Grand, the Rio, Caesars Palace, the Pala tribal casino in California and the Hyatt in Blackhawk, Colorado.

The Spa’s opening actually represents an "out with the old and in with the new" event. The $95 million casino will replace a temporary Spa Resort Casino that is located about a block away.

A cut above the other five desert-area Indian casinos, which are mostly boxy buildings built near interstate off-ramps, the 130,000-square-foot spa has an intricate design and lavish landscaping reminiscent of the upscale hotels on the Las Vegas Strip.

"The casino is really a showplace," says Lou DeGregorio, who holds an interest in IXTAPA, as well as DP Stud, along with John Piccoli and Candice Chandler. "I just got back from there, and I would say it falls into the category of ”˜boutique’ casino, and is a perfect fit for Palm Springs."

The boutique casino has four restaurants, three bars, a stage, 1,000 slot machines and 30 table games that include Pai Gow, mini-baccarat and blackjack. For the first time in Southern California, there will also be a high-limit room for high rollers.

The casino is located a block from the 230-room Spa Hotel, which the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians bought in 1992.

Tribal chairman Richard Milanovich said he expects the casino to draw 5,000 to 6,000 people a day, twice the volume that frequented the original, tent-like Spa casino, which will be torn down and made into a parking lot.

Also on tap, Milanovich said, is a renovation of the hotel, and possibly more redevelopment in downtown Palm Springs.

"We could use a Nordstrom," Milanovich said. "This is prime development space. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some chic shopping here?"

Indeed, perhaps something along the lines of the Forum Shops or Grand Canal Shoppes might be in order.