A Time of Rebirth

Yaamava’ Resort & Casino is the perfect staycation

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Yaamava’ Resort & Casino at San Manuel/submitted

When San Manuel Casino guests suggested improved accommodations, and additional entertainment, dining and gaming options, the staff and the San Manuel Entertainment Authority got to work. 

“We said, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s go for it and build this resort expansion,’” says Peter Arceo, general manager. 

“We wanted to position ourselves to be the best in the market. The hotel is five-star service level. We’re going for that five-star in the spa and steakhouse now. It’s something that the market was asking for: more premium experiences that would allow people to enjoy themselves with their gambling dollar.”

San Manuel Casino has become Yaamava’ Resort & Casino at San Manuel. Located 70 minutes from Downtown Los Angeles in Highland, the casino was certified as a Great Place to Work by the global authority on workplace culture.

Three-phased effort

Its rebirth was unveiled in three phases: the casino expansion opened in July 2021, bringing the total slots to more than 6,500 and adding a fifth high-limit gaming room.

Additional bars, retail outlets and the casual Serrano Vista Café coincided with the casino’s bow. 

The hotel followed in December with a 17-floor tower with 432 guest rooms and suites, and in April 2022, the intimate, state-of-the-art theater celebrated its opening with a private Red Hot Chili Peppers concert.

Arceo says the facelift was a logical move, as the area lacks five-star casino hotels. 

“We wanted to position our resort product to be appealing,” he says. “We knew it was appealing to the individual who lives along the 210/Foothill Freeway corridor, where Pasadena and all the Foothill cities are. 

“We draw from Orange County and LA. LA is so diverse that we have to stand out, yet how do you stand out in a city like LA that has Hollywood and beaches and anything you could ask for?”

The team started with a five-star service experience and a creative menu for The Pines Modern Steakhouse. 

“Our steaks are wonderful, but the highlight of our selection is our olive wagyu offering,” he says. 

“We’re one of nine restaurants to have that in the United States. We’re not aware of any other restaurants in Southern California that offer olive beef wagyu.”

To accompany the rarest steak in the world, The Pines Modern Steakhouse boasts a “jaw-dropping collection of wines and spirits,” Arceo says.

Most notably, The Pines Modern Steakhouse carries every vintage of Screaming Eagle for guests, a rarity for restaurants. 

“Our rare spirits, which we call Collection 86, has bottles that are $150,000 a bottle,” he adds. “We’re really trying to stand out against a huge market like LA and offer a ton of great options. Still, you have to really, really, really be the best at what you do.”

The hotel rooms are decadent, with linens and amenities found in five-star-quality hotels around the world. 

“Guests say our rooms have the most comfortable beds they’ve ever slept on,” he explains. 

“We have turn-down service every night. Who does that anymore? We’re going that extra mile for our guests. There’s a slightly different design for each category of room. You have to see it to understand the nuances of it.”

Premium players and guests in the 135 suites are invited to the Y Lounge on the 17th floor, which serves handcrafted cocktails to panoramic views of the San Bernardino Mountains and surrounding areas.

“We recognized that going after a premium player who is expecting a five-star level of service needs more premium amenities,” Arceo says. 

“The Y Lounge is exclusive. Guests who order from the Collection 86 menu will see their drinks poured into Versace glassware. Not only are you getting a premium drink, you’re getting it served in premium glassware as well.”

Celebrate the night

For further entertainment, there’s the 3,000-capacity Yaamava’ Theater, the casino’s crown jewel. The sound, lights and video mirror exquisite experiences found elsewhere on the property.

“We wanted to engineer it, so we had the sound right,” he says. “It needs to sound right. From there, we worked on the comfort of the seats and the layout of the theater.”

The Yaamava’ Theater has nine luxury VIP suites, complete with private bathrooms. 

“We understand that VIPs who stay in our suites have been to other stadiums and arenas,” he says. 

“We know they’re going to compare them to their other experiences. We want to exceed their expectations, so we put together an entertainment schedule that’s going to bring in artists who will perform to that level.”

Upcoming shows include Erykah Badu (Saturday, June 11); Sam Hunt (Saturday, June 25); Sammy Hagar & the Circle (Saturday, July 16); Elvis Costello & the Imposters (Saturday, September 3); Staind (Saturday, September 17); and Alice Cooper (Friday, October 7).

“Getting people to come from Pasadena for a staycation won’t be able to pass up this experience,” Arceo says. 

“They don’t know we have this outstanding theater experience. I think it’s going to blow people away.” 

Yaamava’ Resort & Casino at San Manuel

777 San Manuel Boulevard, Highland



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