Harrah’s Resort Southern California
North Tower of Harrah’s Resort Southern California
With Las Vegas Pizzazz
By Bob Page
If you’re looking for an interesting combination of California sunshine and the pizzazz of Las Vegas, jump in your jitney and motor on out to Harrah’s Resort Southern California.
The folks at Harrah’s call it “Palm Vegas.” There’s a little bit of relaxation, sunshine, the California-comfortable vibe of Palm Springs (and San Diego!) and the high energy of being in Las Vegas, without being in Las Vegas.
How do you beat that? Harrah’s is close in, a hop, skip and a jump from Escondido and a stone’s throw from Valley Center.
What separates Harrah’s from the other nine casinos in San Diego County is its “Player’s Club which is Total Rewards,” says Janet Beronio, regional president and general manager of Harrah’s.
“We are part of Caesar’s Entertainment Brand. Players can use their Total Rewards card in any machine in any of Caesar’s 40 properties nationwide and get credits, which give them complimentary offers and all sorts of things which they can use throughout the entire Caesar’s network,” Beronio said.
Beronio believes that gives Harrah’s a unique advantage against its competition.
“We’re a branded property with benefits in a lot of other places and being so close to Las Vegas — we have eight properties in Las Vegas — makes it beneficial for people to go to Las Vegas. That is an offer that other casinos can’t offer because they are more localized and don’t have that affiliation with a national brand.”
Harrah’s began managing the resort for the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians in August 2002 with Beronio coming on board in 2003.
The tribe initially hired Harrah’s on a consulting basis in 2000 when the operation was run out of a tent. At first, there was a bingo hall, then a hotel with 200 rooms, the casino and a restaurant or two.
Looking back over the past 14 years, it is easy to see how far the tribe along with its Harrah’s partnership has come. Today, Harrah’s is a first class, AAA Four-Diamond, award winning resort.
It has earned its spurs.
The restaurants are many and varied. There is everything from casual, on-the-go or “how fast can I get back to the blackjack table” spots such as Pink’s, the ultimate Mom and Pop hot dog stand made famous as a Hollywood love story. Paul and Betty Pink started selling hot dogs from a cart at the corner of La Brea and Melrose in 1939.
Then there is the Earl of Sandwich, whose history is equally fascinating. In 1762, the 4th Earl of Sandwich came up with the ingenious idea (some say at a card table) of putting meat between two slices of bread. Now, 250 years later, the current 11th Earl of Sandwich remains passionate about the company’s popular quick food that carries the family name.
If a sandwich’s history isn’t your thing, you can pop into the Café for hearty portions of American comfort food.
My favorites at Harrah’s are Rita’s Cantina, which offers Baja-inspired Mexican dishes and margaritas, which other than El Callejon in Encinitas, just may be the best Mexican restaurant in San Diego.
For the crème de la crème, however, you’ll owe it to yourself to dine at Fiore’s, Harrah’s upscale, award-winning fine dining establishment. Its selection of quality aged steaks and fresh Pacific seafood is not to be missed. Fiore’s wine list has earned Wine Spectator’s Award for Excellence for seven consecutive years.
Dining in Fiore’s makes for the end of a perfect evening. That is, unless you’ll be heading back to the blackjack table.
The dining scene at Harrah’s, like casinos everywhere, has evolved over the years, said Beronio.
“Back in the days, everyone had a buffet and other low end restaurants. Now it is a whole different experience, everything from something quick to Fiore’s.”
Harrah’s, with the tribe’s blessing, has turned the resort into a premier destination for gaming. The casino floor is spread out over 59,000 square feet and offers the most nonsmoking space per-square-foot in the San Diego region.
Harrah’s completed a $160 million expansion in April when it opened its second high-rise tower, new swimming pools, an event center and the new restaurants. The new events center is a 23,000 square foot entertainment and convention facility.
“We’re now the fourth largest hotel in San Diego County with 1,065 rooms. The demand for additional rooms drives other decisions as well. People will stay longer with a better night life experience. We have Corked, a bar with its own kind of jazz environment, and Spiked, a new bar with a vibe of its own.,” Beronio said.
No resort or casino would be complete without a spa and Harrah’s has designed one of the best. The Spa’s motto is rest, relax and rejuvenate. There is a wide array of treatments, everything from massages, facials, body treatments, nails and waxing. And if you become a regular aficionado of Harrah’s, the Spa offers a very affordable and appealing membership program.
Beronio almost got into the hotel/casino business by accident. After her undergraduate years at the University of Maryland, she motored west and found a job in human relations with Marriott in Los Angeles.
She then decided to go to law school and enrolled at the University of San Diego. She joined Harrah’s in San Diego as an employment manager, recruiting college kids as blackjack dealers for their casinos in Lake Tahoe and Reno because their summer business was so strong.
“I actually went up to Tahoe the next summer and learned to deal blackjack myself and then I’d go up on holidays and summers until I finished law school,” after which she joined Harrah’s as an attorney.
“Dealing blackjack helped pay my tuition to finish at USD Law. And you know, you can make pretty good money dealing cards.”
And 32 years later, Beronio is at the top of her game as one of Harrah’s most valuable and trusted executives.