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Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino is a San Diego area ca

10 years ago511 views

Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino is a San Diego area casino, hotel, and golf course owned by the Barona Band of Mission Indians, and known for sponsoring and housing the Blackjack Hall of Fame. It is one of the three largest casinos in the area, located in the foothills of Lakeside, California, at an elevation near 1,300 feet. The casino started as a 1990s bingo hall that grew into a Native american casino in 1999 after the passing of California's Proposition 1-A, which the Barona tribe had actively promoted. The casino is "dry" in that it does not serve alcohol, but alcohol is available in other locations of the ranch.

The $260-million resort, which opened in January 2004, does have something very Vegas: outlandish architecture. The theme, however, is very un-Vegas: a 1930s farm. Giant silo, barn, the works. Maybe my son had a point.

The surprise, however, is that unlike the other Indian casinos in the region, Barona allows people to gamble at age 18, not 21. The other surprise: no alcohol, not even in the hotel or restaurants. That may change, but so far San Diego County officials aren't keen on having booze at a place that can be reached only by a winding two-lane road.

We had a late supper on the patio of the upscale coffee shop, the Branding Iron. Nice, but every few minutes there would be a loud, breathless announcement over the speakers, something like: "Bingo is about to begin!" or "The Smith group — your poker table is ready!" So much for conversation.

Our room was big and furnished like guest quarters at a rich uncle's house. We booked it for $189, but the desk clerk (unaware I work for The Times) slashed it to $159 on arrival, saying there had been cancellations and this was the current rate. Smart.

Perhaps the best surprise of Barona is the golf course. Golf magazine put it on its top-10 list of new U.S. courses last year. We didn't have time to play but got an excellent hour of instruction with a golf pro who charged $50 for us both.

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