The Coachella Valley boasts five distinctly different casino experiences which include Fantasy Springs, Agua Caliente, Spa Resort, Spotlight 29, and Augustine's Casino.
Slots are the central theme, and there are plenty to choose from. Experienced slot players will contrast each casino's slot play by size, type, and amenities. Here are my overall impressions.
Fantasy Springs and Agua Caliente/Spa Resort (they are sister properties) offer clean, well ventilated gaming areas with a huge selection of current, trendy and modern machines. Spotllght-29 comes in a close second, but the vibe here is quite different. Unlike the other three properties, Spotlight has no hotel so their appeal must come from concerts, food and promotions of which there are many.
All four of these casinos compete aggressively through their "player's clubs" and anyone planning to visit more than once should take advantage. Locals invariably join all the player's clubs and watch all casinos closely for promotions on food, slot play, table play, giveaways, tournaments and free music/concert nights.
Also of note, Fantasy Springs completes the idea of a destination resort by offering a golf course, a large bowling complex, a horse racing sports book and a delightful pool area.
Agua Caliente gets high marks for it's upscale food choices, freeway close location and the best concert venue in the Valley. Remember, too their player's club is connected to Palm Springs Spa Resort Casino so players points can build from both spots.
Augustine's competes at a different level. They are small, local and generous with player's club benefits. They use food as a major focus, and the locals respond enthusiastically. The buffet at Augustines is well known, and as player points stack up, the prices go down... eventually free.
Augustine's packs the casino floor with slots, tables, a central bar and can be crowded. Some, however, love the atmosphere as friends and regulars feel part of the action unlike the larger casinos mentioned above.
The top three (Agua Caliente, Spa Resort and Fantasy Springs) have a selection of table games that rival any upscale Vegas casinos. All the games are here, with blackjack the most pervasive, followed by the Indian Casino versions of craps and roulette (same rules but with cards, not dice or a roulette ball). The "cruise ship" games are here too, with four card poker, Spanish 21, Pai Gow, etc. The pit-staff at all five casinos are friendly and professional and all look to build relationships with the higher stakes players.
Note that Augustines and Spotlight-29 offer $5 blackjack. Augustine's actually will drop the stakes to $3 on certain slower weekday hours. The other all offer $10 tables and the upscale "big three" have high stakes lounges.
Restaurants? I'll give the nod to Agua Caliente and Fantasy Springs. At Fantasy Springs, try Pom for lunch and Bistro for a very special evening. Both casinos offer top-notch buffets tied to their player club point system to attract and retain players. Also, at Fantasy Springs, there is an Asian restaurant that might be the top choice in all of Coachella Valley and should not be missed.
Agua Caliente has perhaps the best steak house of all the casinos. In addition, you can reserve online, i.e., Open Table, which makes things far easier as you plan a special night out.
Finally a word about Morongo Casino. It's enormous, confusing and impersonal but like Yogi Berra once said, "no one goes there anymore, it's too crowded!" For residents of the Coachella Valley, there is little reason to travel all the way to Morongo given all the choices in and around the Coachella Valley.