Joe Navarro leads a visitor over the gaming floor of Valley View Casino, past clanging, blinking slot machines, and talks about how crowds move. Three million people flowed through this North San Diego County venue in 2011. Navarro, CEO of the San Pasqual Casino Development Group Inc., which runs the place, is a retired San Diego Police Department officer, and points out details with a policeman’s eye for crowd control and security.
He shows off a million dollars — piled bundles of $100 notes — behind thick glass near the casino’s only entrance. Go ahead, try to move the case, he encourages a visitor. The case does not budge.
More than once he challenges a visitor to find the spots where Valley View added to its buildings as it grew. Seamless transitions seem to be a point of pride for Navarro. The region’s other casinos have put up additions, only to be saddled with floor plans where a visitor can’t move logically.
“Can’t get there from here,” says Navarro.
As a business, Valley View seems to be getting there from here.
The casino and its 1-year-old hotel sit on the San Pasqual reservation, northeast of Escondido and outside the tiny burg of Valley Center. The businesses do not publicly disclose revenue, but their managers say that they have done very well, and have even seen business improve year over year.
Valley View has a reason to hold its financials close to the vest. “Right down the road we have the largest name in gaming on the planet,” Navarro said, referring to Caesars Entertainment Corp., which runs the Harrah’s casino on the neighboring Rincon reservation.
San Diego County has 10 American Indian casinos. “Everybody took a hit in the recession,” Navarro said.
Several things, however, helped Valley View. It was able to increase the volume of people going through the building. “Volume helped,” Navarro said. Valley View was also able to serve its clients with a relatively small staff of 1,000 people who worked very hard, the executive said.
Then there were the slot machines. In 2009, Valley View got past a regulatory roadblock and received permission to install 429 more, to bring its gambling hall up to 2,000 machines. “That helped in the economic downturn,” Navarro said. Valley View also has 26 table games.
One year ago the business opened its 108-room hotel, which lets it draw overnight guests. Valley View is now reaching into the Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino county markets with print, radio and television advertising.