The new Eagle Mountain Casino in Porterville
Day Trippin' with Mel
May 27, 2023
Perhaps you've seen the commercials on TV about the newly built (and in a new location) Eagle Mountain Casino in Porterville – as advertised, the casino, run by the Tule River Tribe, had its Grand Opening on May 9. A couple of days after that my slot-machine loving friend Willie Ray and I decided to go to Porterville to check it out.
We treated ourselves to breakfast at the Keene Café, then set out on the 58 to Bakersfield, then caught the 99 north. Just north of Bakersfield we turned off the 99 onto Highway 65, which would take us all the way to Porterville.
Oddly enough, the numerous television commercials for the new casino never mention an address, they just say the new casino is "right off highway 65," by the fairgrounds in Porterville. I figured that the place must therefore be easy to find; in fact, I sort of assumed that we would be able to spot it from the 65, so I didn't bother to look up directions to get us there.
As we got closer to Porterville, we did see several billboards for Eagle Mountain Casino, and one showed an address: 1850 West Avenue. But there was no sign that we could see that would tell us which exit to take. We couldn't see any signs pointing us to the fairgrounds either.
We drove all the way through Porterville without seeing anything that looked like a casino. On one of our passes back and forth I decided to get off the freeway and check Google Maps and see where we were going wrong. However, there was a Shell station right where I exited so I instead opted to go "old-school" and ask for directions.
The station clerk was very helpful, but even more so were a couple of locals, young men who said they were going that way and we could follow them. Many thanks to those guys as they proceeded to make it easy to find the casino which, by the way, turned out to be a couple of miles off the 65 (not what I'd call "right off" the highway).
The new casino itself is a beautifully crafted building in a picturesque setting, and in truth is much closer and easier to find (if you have an address and can follow a map or directions...or a couple of locals) than when it was at the end of a twisty mountain road on the other side of Porterville.
Once there we tried to take advantage of valet parking, but no one was on duty (it might be different on the weekends, I don't know) so we parked in the large, sprawling lot. A couple of little shuttles were driving around to help people get to the front door from the far reaches of the parking lot, but we made it on our own.
Inside the casino it's all new and shiny with a 2000-seat event center, and lots of slot machines (1750 of them) plus 20 gaming tables. Be warned though, you walk right into the smoking section, and while the air flow purifiers were working pretty well, it is still a bit of a surprise to the senses when we're all so used to non-smoking interiors.
Also note that the various slot machines are rather crowded together; I found it difficult to maneuver with my walker, and people in wheelchairs had even more of a challenge to get through the mazes.
There is a food court with limited choices, and a diner, a coffee house, steak house, and tap room for refreshments. We found great desserts – a brownie hot fudge sundae for me and cheesecake for Willie – in the tap room.
We spent a little time in the small gift shop and a few hours on the slot machines, which were all new to us (there were only a couple of games that we recognized from other casinos). Once again, I mostly just contributed to the local economy, but my lucky friend Willie cashed out with $600! Even though I didn't win anything, it was a fun day for both of us, just getting out and about and seeing something "new."
If you go, it might be best to check your GPS system with the address of 1850 West Avenue in Porterville. Or if you're coming into Porterville on the 65, what I learned is this: after you pass through Terra Bella, watch for the Teapot Dome Avenue cross street (there is a traffic light at the intersection). Turn left (west) on Teapot Dome (which is also Avenue 128) and go a couple of miles (you will pass the airport and the fairgrounds) to West Avenue, which is in the middle of some orchards. Turn right and go north on West Avenue and you'll soon see the casino on your right.
And if you go, good luck and have fun!
© 2023 Mel Makaw. Mel, Tehachapi writer/photographer, avid day tripper and occasional gambler, welcomes your questions, comments, and suggestions at email@example.com.