Cabazon casino puts on the ritz

The new Morongo casino near Palm Springs is aiming for a younger, hipper crowd.
(Douglas Park)

An Indian-owned casino in Cabazon near Palm Springs is going Vegas, opening a $250-million resort and spa designed by the architects of Universal CityWalk and the luxury Bellagio resort in Sin City.

The new Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa, about 20 minutes west of Palm Springs, is aiming at a younger, hipper crowd and has enlisted N9NE Group to “clone” its popular Rain dance club at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.

The new multilevel club, Desert Rain, will offer sky boxes and special effects such as fog and fire.

Chicago-based N9NE is also responsible for the 8,000-square-foot cocktail lounge, called SpaceBar, on the 26th floor of the 27-story resort, and for two of its four restaurants.

The resort, designed by the Jerde Partnership of Venice, has 310 rooms, a swimming pool with private cabanas and a casino floor with 2,000 slot machines. It is owned by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians.

The casino and two restaurants opened this month. Most of the hotel, including the spa and swimming pool, was to have opened last week. The N9NE areas are expected to open Dec. 9.

Regular room rates begin at $159; opening specials may be lower. (800) 252-4499, .

Hertz debuts make, model reservations

Hertz CORP. is rolling out a program that allows renters to reserve certain vehicles by make and model, not just familiar categories such as “mid-size” and “full-size.”

Starting Wednesday, for pickup Jan. 1 or later, renters at 14 airports in Arizona, Colorado, Florida and California, including Los Angeles International Airport, will be able to choose Ford Explorers, Mustangs and several other models. The company plans to add more airports to the program next year.

If a reserved model is not available at pickup, said company spokeswoman Paula Stifter, Hertz will provide a vehicle in the next highest class, plus a $50 coupon good on a future rental.

The offer applies to members of Hertz #1 Club, which is free to join and provides expedited reservation service, and to members of Hertz #1 Club Gold, which costs $50 a year to join and offers extra benefits.

For details, call (800) 654-3131 or visit .

Car outlet

settles suit

A Bay Area franchisee of the Payless car rental company has agreed to reimburse hundreds of customers and pay $250,000 in penalties and legal costs to settle a lawsuit filed by the California attorney general’s office and the San Mateo County district attorney.

The suit alleged that Acceleron Corp., which runs rental outlets at the San Francisco and Oakland airports, advertised unlimited mileage, then imposed surprise surcharges of up to $3,000 on customers who took the cars outside California.

It also alleged that the company failed to disclose that its cars were equipped with global positioning system, or GPS, equipment that tracked their whereabouts.

A state law that takes effect Jan. 1 forbids car rental companies from using GPS equipment to assess fines but doesn’t require them to disclose that cars have such equipment.

— Compiled by

Jane Engle