For my first-ever venture into California, I got to check out the three properties that are managed by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.
Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage is the flagship property, with a more complete array of facilities and amenities than the other two properties. But each are within a few minutes of each other, and have something to offer.
In coming weeks I’ll also feature write-ups of their other properties, located in Palm Springs and Cathedral City.
Of the three locations, Rancho Mirage seemed to have the largest everything, which given it’s the resort of the three, makes sense. The slot floor seemed the largest, with a strong mix of old favorites and popular new options. You could find Buffalo Link and twenty year old IGT mechanical reel slots.
Table games appeared to have the highest minimums of the three properties; on a Tuesday night Blackjack was $15 minimums, whereas I found lower minimums at the other two properties under similar circumstances.
Video Poker pay tables were quite good – you could find full pay Jacks or Better video poker at dollars in multiple places, but also at quarters in their high limit tables area.
Speaking of which, they had separate high limit areas for slots and tables, not particularly unusual, but they were on opposite sides in the center of the casino floor. The tables area did have a few machines as well though, including two video poker machines and Top Dollar.
Roulette and craps are played differently here, because of how the laws regulate how outcomes can be determined. So in craps, a dice throw connects to cards, and the cards determine the final outcome, whereas in Roulette, instead of a ball, there’s a clacky wheel with cards inside it, so again a card is determining the outcome. Otherwise it’s the same roulette structure and odds as standard American roulette (0/00).
Rancho Mirage is the only property with a hotel, and the property makes the most of it. Even standard rooms are quite spacious at over 550 square feet. The room features a full working space, seating area and mini fridge, among other amenities, and the room was awfully comfortable.
The bathroom features both a tub and a shower, along with dual sinks. The bathroom too is quite spacious, with plenty of room to maneuver when getting ready for the day.
These photos are the baseline rooms; there are also rooms with balconies, and suites that go above/beyond these baseline rooms.
Agua Caliente’s casinos have their own comp program, the ACE Club, with ACE standing for “Agua Caliente Experience.” There’s three tiers… but if you don’t know what you need to tier up, you’re not alone, as the brochure, website and so forth don’t really give you an indication.
I was in the Palm Springs area for a number of days, and at first the meter on their website was moving at a pace that it looked like $10,000 in slot coin-in would basically secure me the second tier. But, when the bar got to 99 percent, it stayed there, despite plenty of additional play.
I spoke to a person at the desk, who told me that they rate people based on a rolling 12 month average, and that occasionally the card level got stuck, but that I appeared to have met the criteria to be elevated. She promised to escalate to someone higher up but it would take a week to resolve, and three weeks later it’s still stuck there. So either there’s some issue at play, or the amount of coin-in isn’t the only metric.
I’m not a big fan of casino card programs being so opaque that you don’t know how to tier up. While you should never play for comps or tiers, you should know what it takes, because perhaps your gambling budget supports that tier and you like what the casino offers at that tier, so you’ll go for it.
It’s not the only thing that’s vague – I now show room offers available to me, which makes sense as it’s been a few weeks since I put in the play. Darned if I can figure out what they are though. Clicking on one just shows a slightly larger version of the same graphic. Perhaps details will fill in from a flyer or something, but it’s all a bit odd to me.
Thankfully the comp dollars you earn is much more clear – you earn 3 points for every $10 in slot coin-in or $20 in video poker coin-in. A point is worth one cent in comps, so you’re getting $1 for every $333.33 in slot coin-in. That is not the worst I’ve seen, nor the best.
You also get 5 percent of your spend at their properties back in points. That’s a cool feature, and those can add up quickly since every $20 yields 100 points, effectively.
All card members get discounts on things like gift shops and spa merchandise; higher level card holders get bigger discounts. Comps are earned and redeemed across all three locations, a plus.
They run promotions such as point multiplier days or gift shop comp dollar bonuses, so there’s ways to boost your comp earnings too.
They have a lovely pool and hot tub area, which I availed myself of while there. Despite it being a warm day, the hot tub wasn’t overbearing, which was nice, and they had poolside drink service available.
Many of the food options, sans the standard upscale steakhouse, were quite well priced and good on value. Whether it was their food court area called The District, the Waters Cafe, or the 360 Sports area, there was good deals abound.
It’s rare to find a casino that offers free refills on bought sodas, but their ACE Deli offered just that. 360 Sports had a lobster roll special while I was there (pictured above) that was fantastic. Portions tended to be quite good, especially for the price, and I never went hungry.
The gift shops similarly had surprising value to them relative to a normal casino gift shop, so I ended up doing what I normally never do and got myself a couple of souvenir items with my comp dollars as I was clearing them out.
The Rancho Mirage location has a spa and fitness center on site, which makes sense given the hotel. Their map and card program mentions a buffet, but the space where the buffet was marked off looked to have slots in it, so either it’s gone for good or they’re making use of the space indefinitely until they’re ready to bring it back.
Overall I very much enjoyed my stay there, and liked the property a lot. My only beef was with the quite opaque players card system; fix that and in my eyes they’re a great option if you’re visiting the area.