By Steve Beauregard
San Diego is a mecca for Indian casinos.
While there are 24 casinos in Southern California total, 9 of these are located within San Diego County.
In total, there are ten casinos within an hour’s drive of San Diego. Three of these are less than 30 miles away from the heart of downtown.
The Sycuan is the second closest casino to San Diego
In addition to the ten casinos near San Diego, there are two card rooms located in town. There’s more on that later, but we’re not counting these card rooms in our list of ten full-fleged regular casinos.
Here’s a list of San Diego’s ten casinos, in order of proximity from San Diego.
Specifically, these distances are calculated when starting out at the Balboa Theatre in downtown San Diego. I’ve also listed estimated driving times here, but as you might imagine, just because a casino is closer, doesn’t mean it’s faster to get to.
(Here’s a map showing you the ten casinos near San Diego. The six closest casinos are individually colored. The other four are brown in color).
Hollywood Casino Jamul (Orange pin on map)
San Diego’s closest casino is also its newest.
Inside the Hollywood Casino Jamul near San Diego
Built for over $400 million dollars, the Hollywood Casion Jamul opened on October 10th, 2016. It’s just 20 miles east of downtown San Diego, and would typically take you anywhere from 25 minutes to 45 minutes to drive.
The brand new 200,000 casino is home to seven different restauarants (including Tony Gwynn’s Pub), 1,700 slot machines, and 43 table games. It does not have a poker room, nor hotel.
14145 Campo Road
Jamul, CA. 91935
Phone: (619) 315-2250
Sycuan Casino (Red pin on map)
San Diego’s second closest casino is 25 miles or (40 kilometers) away from the heart of the city. It would take you around 35 to 50 minutes to drive to the Sycuan.
This casino-only building (the resort/hotel/golf course is 4 miles to west), has 2,000 slot machines and 40 table games. There is also an 18 table poker room, making it the largest poker room in San Diego.
In addition to five restaurants, the resort boasts a large theater that plays host to some pretty big name comedy and musical acts.
The Sycuan has a shuttle free to ride for anyone with a Sycuan player’s card, and there are 13 different pick-up locations in the San Diego metropolitan area.
5469 Casino Way
El Cajon, CA 92019
Barona Resort & Casino
Barona Resort & Casino – (Blue pin)
This 400 room hotel/casino is located 28 miles or 45 kilometers, north and east of San Diego. It’s between a 35 minute to one hour drive to Barona from downtown.
The resort has a golf course, spa, while the casino has 2,100 slot machines and 85 gaming tables.
As with other San Diego-area casinos, these table games include card-based craps instead of the traditional numbered dice game. There’s also card-based roulette, baccarat, pai gow, tons of carnival games and blackjack of course.
The poker room has 15 tables. You just have to be 18 or older to gamble at Barona.
Barona has five sit-down restaurants, a buffet, along with a food court. The resort is also home to the Barona Creek Golf Course.
1932 Wildcat Canyon Road
Lakeside, CA 92040
Viejas Casino & Resort – (Green dot)
The Viejas Casino is just 33 Miles from San Diego
Almost directly east of San Diego in Alpine, California, the Viejas is a 33 mile drive away, or 52 kilometers. The driving time would be in the 30 to 45 minute range.
The beautiful, modern-looking resort has 237 hotel rooms. It’s a AAA Four Diamond hotel with thousands of slots and all the usual table games. There’s a bingo hall off-track betting area, and even an outlet stores shopping mall.
Valley View Casino & Hotel – (Yellow pin).
Living up to its name, the Valley View sits atop a bluff and has great vistas of the valley below.
The Valley View Casino & Hotel is 41 miles from San Diego
Its located 41 miles (66 km) away from San Diego. A typical drive would take between 50 minutes to an hour and 50 minutes.
Valley View has 2,000 slots and numerous table games as well. It’s know for its award-wining buffet, which holds 550 porkers, uh, I mean patrons.
Harrah’s Resort Southern California – (Purple pin)
This Caesars Entertainment-owned hotel/casino is 47 miles, (74 kilometers), from downtown San Diego.
The drive is on Interstate 15 for most of the way. Normally it is a 55 minute to 1.5 hour drive, but, as you might imagine, that will vary widely based on traffic. Google maps estimates that time stretching into 2 hours on average should you leave San Diego late on a Friday afternoon.
Harrah’s Southern California, formerly known as Harrah’s Rincon, has 1,700 slot machines and 68 table games.
The poker room spreads $3/6 limit and $1/3 No-limit Texas Hold’em on up.
The 1,065 room hotel, has pools, a lazy river, a 2,200 seat concert venue, nine different restaurants, ranging from a Starbucks to a buffet to an upscale steakhouse.
Harrah’s Southern California is 47 miles from San Diego
777 Harrah’s Rincon Way
Valley Center, CA
Phone: (760) 751-3100
Harrah’s Southern California runs free daily shuttle service to and from the resort from various points from Los Angeles to San Diego.
You can find the full schedule here: Harrah’s Southern California bus schedule
However since this article is about casinos near San Diego, we’ll point out that daily shuttle service from downtown San Diego is available at a stop near the Old Town Trolley Station. As of this writing, the shuttle leaves twice a day, at 9:20 AM and 1:20 PM, seven days a week.
It leaves the casino for the ride back into San Diego at 3:30 PM and 7:30 PM.
There are also stops at National City, Clairemont, Mira Mesa, and Rancho Bernardo.
Pala Casino Spa & Resort – 52 miles (84 kilometers). An hour to an hour and a half drive.
Pala has 2,000 slot machines, 80 table games, a 15 table poker room, and popular bingo hall. In addition to shops, bars and a spa, there are 11 restaurants at Pala.
The resort is currently undergoing a $170 million dollar hotel and casino expansion. Once completed, the resort will have 854 rooms. Construction is expected to be completed in 2019.
Casino Pauma – 59 miles (94 km) directly north. A hour to an hour 45 minute drive.
Golden Acorn Casino & Travel Center – 59 miles (94 km), a little south and east of San Diego. An hour to an hour and a half drive on Interstate 8.
Pechanga – Although nice and large, (it’s the largest casino in California), Pechanga Resort & Casino is well north of San Diego, just outside the San Diego county line.
It’s 60.3 miles to be exact, when driving the fastest route on Interstate 15. The drive north will take you between 1 hour (on a good day), to close to two hours during peak traffic times.
Card and Poker Rooms in San Diego
In addition to the ten nearby casinios, San Diego is home to a couple of card rooms.
They are not casinos in the traditional sense, as there aren’t any slot machines nor video poker terminals. It’s just cards here: poker, blackjack, pai gow and the like. Unlike the Indian casinos, these cardrooms are privately owned, and not on tribal-owned land.
Seven Mile Casino – It gets it’s name for being located seven miles south of San Diego. (Actually 8 miles from downtown according to Google Maps). It’s just a ten to 20 minute drive south on Interstate 5.
In addition to its poker tables, Seven Mile has blackjack, pai gow, EZ baccarat, and a couple of carnival games.
285 Bay Blvd
Chula Vista, CA. 91910
Lucky Lady Casino and Card Room – located 8 miles north and east of downtown San Diego in El Cerrito.
This small joint in the northeast part of San Diego is located in a strip-mall setting on a busy road in what some have described as not the nicest area.
It spreads poker games, pai gow, 3 card poker, mini baccarat, and blackjack. The 8 table poker room runs small stakes daily tournaments (we’re talking $25 entry fee).
As a side note, (that should perhaps be the headline) in July of 2017, the FBI raided the Lucky Lady Casino and charged nine individuals associated with the casino of various bookmaking charges.
As of this writing, it’s unclear as to the future status of this card room.
I say that because another San Diego area casino, the Palomar Card Club, was raided by the F.B.I. in December 2015. As with the Lucky Lady Casino, there were allegations of illegal bookmaking. The Palomar lost their gambling license and the casino closed in 2016.
In any case, here is the Lucky Lady Casino’s address and phone number:
5526 El Cajon Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92115
Phone: (619) 287-6690
One last note in case you played here before and missed it on this list:
The Santa Ysabel Casino in Santa Ysabel, 58 miles north of San Diego, closed in February 2014. It was one of the smaller casinos in the San Diego area and is likely to have succumbed to competition from closer, larger, and fancier casinos.
Photos courtesy of each respective resort