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Casino Country

San Diego County, along with the Temecula area, is the Indian gaming capital of California, with more than 13 tribes operating casinos in the region's backcountry. The casinos range from resorts with headliner entertainment and golf courses, to small rooms tucked away on rural crossroads with slot machines and cards. Although the gaming options may resemble what you might find in Las Vegas, the action is definitely different. The casinos stand alone on back roads, so it's not practical to travel from one to another. The big casinos—Viejas, Barona, Sycuan, Rincon, Pala, and Pachenga—are popular with local seniors and some Asian visitors. Many casinos offer bus transport, so call before visiting and save on gas. Gambling age is 18 years, 21 in some casinos.

Viejas Casino. Viejas Casino is a massive Native American–theme entertainment and shopping complex. Viejas has more than 2,500 slot machines, plus blackjack, poker, bingo, pai gow, and off-track wagering. There are six restaurants and a cocktail lounge, plus a high-end bar and VIP lounge. The Viejas Outlet Center, a factory outlet mall across from the casino, has more than 50 shops, restaurants, a landscaped amphitheater, and the California Welcome Center. 5000 Willows Rd., Alpine, CA, 91901. 619/445–5400 or 800/847–6537. www.viejas.com.

Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino. Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino is an all-in-one Western-style destination with gaming, hotel, restaurants, and golf course. In the casino you can find 2,000 slots, more than 80 gaming tables including blackjack, a poker room, and off-track betting. The 400-room Barona Valley Ranch hotel has a fitness center, day spa, and pool. 1932 Wildcat Canyon Rd., Lakeside, CA, 92040. 619/443–2300 or 888/722–7662. www.barona.com.

Sycuan Casino. More compact than other area casinos, Sycuan Casino has 2,000 slot machines; table games such as blackjack, poker, and pai gow; and a bingo parlor. Portions of the casino are smoke-free. The tribe also owns the nearby Sycuan Resort. 5469 Casino Way, El Cajon, CA, 92019. 619/320–6078 or 800/279–2826. www.sycuan.com.

Harrah's Rincon Casino & Resort. Harrah's Rincon Casino & Resort lies in the shadow of Palomar Mountain. The resort has 662 rooms and five entertainment venues. The casino has 2,000 slot machines and 60 table games, and there are seven restaurants, plus a spa, pool, and gym. Two show rooms offer enterntainment almost nightly. 777 Harrah's Rincon Way, Valley Center, CA, 92082. 760/751–3100. www.harrahs.com.

Pechanga Resort & Casino. Pechanga Resort & Casino has some of the best accommodations. The resort hotel has 517 rooms, plus 45 sites in its RV park, seven restaurants and a food court, a gym, sauna, swimming pool, spa, and golf course. The casino has 3,400 slot machines, more than 132 table games, a high-limit gaming area with VIP lounge, and no-smoking poker room. Several night clubs offer live entertainment nightly. The casino presents championship boxing matches year-round. The Journey at Pachenga golf course has collected national honors. 45000 Pechanga Pkwy., Temecula, CA, 92592. 951/693–1819. www.pechanga.com.

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