Remembering the 'Good Times'

‘Celebrating 10 years of good times,” note signs along Interstate 10 that herald the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa’s grand opening in 2004 on the Morongo Reservation.

The ultra-modern tower, designed by the Jerde Partnership, has hosted former President George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Sam Donaldson, celebrities, musicians and film stars.

It weathered the worst recession of a lifetime, employed thousands and had a hand in sending $450 million in taxes and compact payments to the state as a result of the tribal gaming compacts.

Ten years ago, as VIPs and invited guests traipsed through the 27-story-tall space, Robert Martin spoke about the effect the casino resort would have on a reservation once relegated to ranching, apricot farming and a life of poverty.

Now, Martin said he marvels over how far the 1,100-member tribe has come when stacked against 100-plus years of deprivation.

As fireworks were set to light the nighttime skies last week, Martin, a decadeslong tribal leader who roped, branded and drove cattle on the Morongo Reservation as a boy, shared his thoughts on what the anniversary means to the tribe.

Here’s what Martin had to say in a telephone interview and written responses to emailed questions.

 

Q. How has the opening of the $250 million resort property benefited the Morongo?

A. It’s been a huge benefit, putting our tribe on the road to self-reliance and self-sufficiency. It has enabled us to provide health care, housing, infrastructure, electricity, clean water, public safety and educational programs to our people, including our youth and our elders.

We were able to launch the Morongo School, the first college preparatory academy of its kind on an Indian reservation; and the tribe pays for 100 percent of all college costs for our members regardless of age.

The casino-resort also empowered us to develop a diverse array of business enterprises in manufacturing, health care, recreation, tourism, dining and agriculture. These ventures range from the Arrowhead bottling plant on our reservation to almond farms in central California to a 17,000-bed network of skilled-nursing facilities in 10 states.

We’re also proud about having the first In-N-Out restaurant on a U.S. Indian reservation and a Taco Bell on the way. And in 2010, we acquired a struggling golf course in Beaumont and rejuvenated it into the Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon to provide a great, new recreational amenity for our guests and the community.

 

 

Q. How has it benefited the region as a whole?

A. Our operations generate an estimated $3 billion a year in economic activity, and we’ve contributed about half a billion dollars in taxes and compact revenue to the state, which helps fund important public services.

Morongo employs nearly 3,000 people. We have also worked closely with the county and our neighbors on regional projects, like the I-10 bypass. Most importantly, we have been able to live our values by sharing with others.

 

Press Enterprise

Debra Gruszecki

Dec 14th 2014