Soboba Casino Resort's First Year

◆ By Mike Hiles

The Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians worked for decades to open a bigger and better casino and in February of 2019, it became a reality. Not only did the Tribe give the new and improved casino a better location and look but adding a hotel and restaurants made it a desirable destination for guests to eat, play and stay. The adjacent Soboba Springs Golf Course adds to the experience.

As the new facility marks its first anniversary, much of its success has been attributed to a loyal customer base and employees who are happy to get to know them. Soboba Casino’s Assistant General Manager Jason Cozart said he enjoys seeing employees interact with guests on a personal level.

Many of the employees throughout the resort worked at the previous casino and were excited to continue in the hospitality field where they began their careers many years ago. Todd Harrington is a Table Games Floor Supervisor and has been with Soboba Casino for more than 18 years, formerly as a dealer.

“Everyone has come together as a team in all departments,” he said. “We all realize teamwork is going to make the Soboba Casino Resort not only more successful but also a great place to work.”

He said upcoming changes are discussed often in the table games department from policy and procedure changes to updates.

“We also get information on new games that will be introduced in the near future that will set us apart from other casinos in the area,” Harrington said. “The best parts of my job are building relationships with my co-workers and creating relationships with our guests.”

Slot attendants Anna Hartmann and Henry Collazo are part of the team seen by almost every visitor to the casino as they are a constant presence to help with change, mechanical issues, answering questions, providing directions and more in the slot machines areas.

“I started at Soboba Casino long before the extra tents were added and I think less than 100 people worked there at that time,” said Hartmann, who has been with the casino for nearly 22 years. “Some guests miss the intimacy of the old casino, but I love having all these restaurants and other places around for our guests to enjoy.”

Hartmann said she is excited about all the new promotions and events and said the concert series has been great. Collazo has been working at Soboba Casino for almost two years and said he also loves working with the team.

“Everything across the board has changed and improved in the first year,” he said. “Better promotions, more slot machine options, and guest and team member morale are through the roof!” SCR now has about 1,400 employees throughout the casino, its restaurants and hotel. A variety of eating spots run the gamut from casual to fine dining. Jacob Rivera has been a Canyons line cook since it opened and has helped create a cohesive team while fine tuning its menu.

“The good reactions from our guests has been really rewarding,” he said. “It’s exciting to be a new restaurant in the community and to be welcomed with open arms.”

Robin Honeywell is a Beverage Supervisor who works closely with several different departments within SCR. She has been employed by Soboba for about 12 years.

“There is a strong sense of family and community here,” she said. “In the Beverage Department alone, almost one fourth of our team members have been (with Soboba) more than four years and at least 20 of them for more than 10 years.”

She said the biggest challenge she was faced with during the first year of operation was just figuring out what was working and what wasn’t and making changes accordingly. She has enjoyed the increased amount of in-house training and promotions from within that she’s witnessed.

“I’ve really enjoyed learning the banquets and catering side of the business as well as being able to facilitate during those functions,” Honeywell said.

Catering Manager Elizabeth Grenier appreciates the opportunity to work with many different departments when scheduling for the Event Center. From the first phone call with a request to all the preparations that need to be made and coordination that is done,

Grenier is on duty until the event has ended and the last bit of clean up has been completed. Then it’s on to the next event.

“We have a very full schedule,” she said. “And we are already getting repeat customers who want to host their annual events here because they were so satisfied with the results.”

Grenier said with the new larger location, more possibilities became available and with the increased event bookings, she has added an additional coordinator to her team. Hundreds of community events have been held at SCR in the past year and the venue has been adapted to meet many themes for events that range from fundraisers to concerts.

Many hotel guests stay overnight when attending functions at SCR or cultural weekend events at the nearby Soboba Reservation. Guests are treated to a top-notch experience from check-in through the duration of their stay. Michelle Woodfin serves as the front office manager and started working for the hotel a few months before it opened.

“Soboba is very strong at promoting from within and providing job opportunities that meet the interest of the individuals and a few of the team members have been with Soboba in other positions,” she said. “As more guests visit us, business demands have increased. In order to exceed our service goals and continue to provide exceptional customer service, we have had to create new positions and add to those that already exist.”

Woodfin said she was surprised at how quickly business picked up and pleased to see no one lost focus on providing outstanding service. Welcoming feedback and suggestions from guests are paramount to this goal.

“It was suggested we remove the need for bringing flyers to the hotel to receive their offers so by implementing a system to redeem their offers electronically, we will now be able to remove that part from the arrival process, decrease the time to check in and still meet our auditing needs,” she said.

As group sales manager for Food & Beverage, Linda Clark touches several different departments throughout SCR.

“Soboba Casino Resort recognizes their employees as part of the Soboba family who receive acknowledgement for their achievements through recognition and appreciation,” she said. “The most common suggestions I hear from guests is for the resort to offer more kid-friendly options and to open a full-service spa.”

It is the people who visit Soboba Casino Resort as well as the workers behind the scenes and those interacting with guests on a daily basis that has fulfilled the Tribe’s promise of being a premier destination for eating, playing and staying.

All managers welcome feedback and suggestions they receive via Guest Net Surveys. There are also Guest Service Specialists on the casino floor taking brief surveys to provide feedback to department management so any issues can be addressed, and possible changes can be made. Experiences can also be shared via email to guestservice@soboba.net.

The Soboba Casino Resort is at 22777 Soboba Road in San Jacinto. More information can be found at www.soboba.com or by calling 1-866-4-SOBOBA.

Photos courtesy of Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

The Soboba Tribal Members Grand Opening Celebration marked the inaugural event for the Soboba Casino Resort Event Center on March 12, 2019. Hundreds of events have been held in this space since then

The Soboba Tribal Members Grand Opening Celebration marked the inaugural event for the Soboba Casino Resort Event Center on March 12, 2019. Hundreds of events have been held in this space since then

Catering Manager Elizabeth Grenier enjoys coordinating a full schedule of various events at the SCR Event Center. She said the amount of bookings continues to grow after one year of successful parties, concerts, fundraisers, conferences and more

Catering Manager Elizabeth Grenier enjoys coordinating a full schedule of various events at the SCR Event Center. She said the amount of bookings continues to grow after one year of successful parties, concerts, fundraisers, conferences and more

Slot attendant Anna Hartmann is one of more than 1,400 employees that has kept the Soboba Casino Resort humming during its first year

Slot attendant Anna Hartmann is one of more than 1,400 employees that has kept the Soboba Casino Resort humming during its first year

Jacob Rivera started working as a line cook at Canyons when the Soboba Casino Resort opened a year ago. The fine dining steakhouse is one of several restaurants enjoyed by guests

Jacob Rivera started working as a line cook at Canyons when the Soboba Casino Resort opened a year ago. The fine dining steakhouse is one of several restaurants enjoyed by guests

Table Games Floor Supervisor Todd Harrington said teamwork is what makes the Soboba Casino Resort successful and also a great place to work

Table Games Floor Supervisor Todd Harrington said teamwork is what makes the Soboba Casino Resort successful and also a great place to work

Robin Honeywell – at the casino’s “Tree Bar” – enjoys the strong sense of family and community she finds in her job as Beverage Supervisor

Robin Honeywell – at the casino’s “Tree Bar” – enjoys the strong sense of family and community she finds in her job as Beverage Supervisor