Horde of eager gamblers descends on Golden Acorn Casino for grand opening

August 16, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

CAMPO INDIAN RESERVATION — While the long-term success of the Golden Acorn Casino remains to be seen, the marketing push that enticed crowds of eager gamblers up the hill to Wednesday night's grand opening was a definite triumph.

Some casino-goers waited on the rumble strips along the Interstate 8 shoulder for nearly an hour just to take the Crestwood exit to get to the Golden Acorn. The traffic was so thick it made the Las Vegas Strip look like a free-flowing expressway.

Inside the 60,000 square-foot casino, people were packed shoulder-to-shoulder as they scrambled for one of 750 slot machines to open. Others milled around, getting a feel for the place.

"Ooh! Over there!" said one woman to her companion when she spotted a recently abandoned slot machine. Before the two could get there, though, another gambler had slid onto the stool.


James Tovar of Covina had found a comfortable seat at a blackjack table, one of the casino's 12 game tables.

Tovar and his wife, Lisa, have been to casinos before and though the Golden Acorn seemed nice, they couldn't get a good look at things.

"It's hard to tell because it's so crowded," said Lisa Tovar as she watched her husband signal for another card from the dealer.

Despite the opening night throngs, Lisa Tovar said she could see enough of the casino to describe it as "beautiful."

"And the people are very friendly. Everyone is so friendly, and that makes a big difference," Lisa Tovar said.

James Tovar admitted a lack of winnings had left him "a little bit under" at the blackjack table.

"That's OK," said his wife. "We got a free T-shirt.

"It looks like the machines are paying off," she said.

The sound of coins clinking out of slot machines punctuated the clamor of patrons talking to each other and cocktail waitresses asking for orders.

In true casino style, showgirls in sparkling bikini tops and feather headpieces walked by, all smiles and glamour.

An inverted female acrobat balanced herself with her hand on her partner's head while curious onlookers took a break from slipping quarters in slots.

The Golden Acorn even had a mime on hand for the evening's entertainment.

The casino is just one part of a much-larger Travel Center planned by the Campo Band of Kumeyaay Indians.

About 55 miles west of El Centro on I-8, the casino will be joined by a truck stop, convenience store, restaurant and hotel.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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