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Agua Caliente Resort Casinos Provides the Ultimate Guest Experiences

Agua Caliente Resort Casinos, build for the long term. By Peter White

Success begets success at the Agua Caliente casino chain, which continues to grow in the Palm Springs area of Southern California. It’s an unforgiving land for the unprepared, but the Agua Caliente casinos were ready for their moment in the sun, a moment which is stretching into generations. One casino has grown into three, and a fuel station and standalone spa have been spun off for good measure. For a look at how this gaming phenomenon continues and burgeons, Publisher Peter White spoke with the casinos' Chief Operating Officer Saverio Scheri. Their conversation follows …

What have been the aspects of the operation that you have concentrated on developing most over recent years at the organization?

I believe it’s two things: it’s operational excellence, creating and delivering the ultimate guest experience, as well as expanding our operations. In the last few years, we’ve opened our third casino property, Agua Caliente
Casino Cathedral City, we’ve opened Agua Caliente Fuel — which also has gaming — and we’ve opened The Spa at Séc-he, a world-class spa in downtown, Palm Springs. Séc-he was just voted the number one spa in the country by Spas of America. That is a testament to our commitment to creating memorable guest experiences. When I joined Agua Caliente, we had just two casino properties. Our expansion and diversification are possible because of our successes with our operations team. With all that comprises a modern-day casino resort, technology is calling the shots. How has your resort operation managed with recruitment of tech skills, and with keeping up with all the new technology developments.

Image: Agua Caliente Resort Casinos Chief Operating Officer Saverio Scheri

For quite some time now, technology has been a mainstay of every casino and resort, and has basically infiltrated every single aspect of operations. It’s a key component of every department and that has only increased as the technology itself advances. It permeates the entire casino. And yes, not only do we need resources with technology skills but we need all of our team members, not just our IT group, but all of our team members to understand that technology is always changing — and we need to be flexible to adapt to the changes to operate a successful business.

The rapid advancement of technology is changing the way we do business. In the past, the business drove the technology that was developed. That has now inverted: Now technology allows the business to do things never imagined before. Guests can check into the hotel from their mobile devices and open their rooms with their phones. Restaurant and spa reservations, sign-ups for promotions, and of course play-for-free and real-money gaming can all be done on their mobile device. Funding your slot machine play and redeeming tickets can all be done on your phone. It changes the way we engage with our guests.

What are the main areas that technology impacts on how you conduct business?

Again, technology permeates the entire operation. You know, on both the guests’ side and also on the team member’ side. It’s part of everything we do and, every single day, we’re seeing more and more. Now with the advent of

AI we’re starting to see that touch a lot of different areas as well. Everything from the obvious ones like guest check-in, and of course slot machines on the floor to even places like facilities and housekeeping is now tech-centric.

What is unique about Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage?

Our team members. I’ve had the opportunity to work in many different casinos and this is truly a family. We help each other out like family does. We have a good time like family does and that shows in the way we
treat our guests, and it’s why our guests keep coming back. Our guests, in turn, become part of that family. And that is truly unique.

The resort is host to this year’s Gamecon. Can you tell us about how you got involved with this event and could we expect in the future an eSports gaming center at the resort?

eSports is an interesting vertical in the casino world. A lot of people, including us, are still exploring the potential of eSports and what it could mean to us. Right now, we see the biggest benefit is exposure to a new demographic that we hope will evolve into a gambling demographic. Like a lot of things, we like to explore and evaluate the potential, and we’ll continue to do that.

Agua Caliente Resort Casinos won yet again the highly regarded Forbes five-star and four-star ratings, and readers of 'Palm Springs Life Magazine' voted The Spa at Séc-he as one of the best spa experiences in greater Palm Springs. What is your secret?

Our success is due directly to the commitment of our team members. They are well trained but, even more importantly, they understand how important the guest experience is to our operation. They internalize our training and are very passionate about exceeding our guests’ expectations. Many resorts say this, but it is real here. The proof is in our success and our accolades.

How has the entertainment-events aspect of the leisure complex developed over the last five years and do you see further growth in this?

Entertainment has been a staple for casinos since the beginning of gaming. It continues to be and, with the ever-changing entertainment options and the way people access entertainment, it’s woven into the tapestry of our resorts. Now you can stream movies, concerts and shows on your SmartTV or mobile phone. So that’s given access to many more entertainers than ever before. With so much more entertainment available, it’s really changed the way we deliver entertainment to our guests. It’s not just a headliner in the main showroom, we have a variety of entertainers in a variety of places.

You have fostered over the years a strong commitment to the local community. Has that been an important asset of the whole enterprise that is Agua Caliente?

It’s important for Agua Caliente to be a good neighbor in the community because we’re not just here for the short term. We’re here for the long term. Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs has been open for over 30 years. And the only way to do that successfully is to build a relationship with the community leaders and the population of the community.

Tell us about the recent news of Agua Caliente Casinos’ Concourse at the Palm Springs International Airport.

This groundbreaking partnership with the Palm Springs International Airport marks an historic first in the records of collaboration. Through this remarkable alliance, we will enhance the airport experience and introduce travelers to the essence of Agua Caliente from the very moment they step foot into the terminal. The renaming of the concourse in early 2024 signifies the commencement of this trailblazing, concourse-naming-rights partnership. Over the course of three years, the partnership will encompass naming rights to the RJ Concourse, activation space and a range of advertising opportunities throughout the newly named Agua Caliente Concourse, along with additional promotional prospects at PSP.

Tell us more about the Pívat Cigar Lounge, which is apparently the only one of its kind in California.

Pívat Cigar Lounge, established in 2018 within Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa, aims to provide a one-of-a-kind experience by combining a world-class cigar lounge with live gaming. The lounge offers an extensive selection of over 52 cigar brands and 200 profiles, showcased in a walk-in humidor. Additionally, the recent expansion includes an outdoor area and the introduction of the exclusive Pívat Membership Club. With a team of knowledgeable cigar sommeliers, an award-winning, craft-cocktail program, delicious menu offerings from The Steakhouse, and gaming facilities now available, Pívat Cigar Lounge sets itself apart as the premier destination for luxury and entertainment.

Casino Life would like to thank Saverio Scheri for taking time out of his busy schedule for this interview.

*** This exclusive feature interview was originally published in March 2024 edition of Casino Life Magazine Issue 164 ***