From hotel-casino operators to manufacturers, the momentum to pursue environmentally responsible practices continues to swell

Barona Valley Ranch casino-resort’s golf course uses hardy native plants, drought-tolerant turf, individually controlled sprinklers and reclaimed water. It’s just one of the many green practices employed by the San Diego-area casino-resort, which is owned and operated by the Barona Band of Mission Indians.

Editor’s note: In this second in a series, Casino Journal examines the eco-friendly practices of three different companies in the gaming industry.

At Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino, the commitment to environmentally sound practices throughout the property isn’t taken lightly.

 “We’ve tried to lead the charge in conservation and responsible resource management with our facilities,” said Rick Salinas, general manager for Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino.

The commitment, he said, stems from the resort’s tribal owners, the Barona Band of Mission Indians. “The tribe has always tried to live in harmony with nature. They’ve had a longstanding commitment to nature and the environment here on the reservation.”

For evidence of just how committed the tribe and resort are to environmentally sound practices start at the resort’s golf course, nestled in the rolling foothills near Lakeside, Calif.

The championship Barona Creek Golf Club course and the resort itself have received many accolades for a wide range of conservation measures.

The course, designed by Gary Roger Baird Design International, incorporates the area’s rugged natural landscape, native grasses and uses drought-tolerant turf along its fairways.

Each sprinkler head is individually controlled to optimize water usage. Ponds are used as part of the water collection and storage system, and serve as a home to migrating water fowl. In fact, Barona’s golf club has been an Audubon International Certified Signature Sanctuary since 2002.

In 2000, Barona opened a $3.5 million, state-of-the-art water reclamation plant. The facility uses pioneering scientific processes, with ultraviolet as the disinfectant agent, to produce cleaner water at a higher usable volume, safely and efficiently, according to the tribe. At peak capacity, it can treat 750,000 gallons of water.

An innovative water recovery program captures rainwater and irrigation runoff and reclaims about 99 percent of the resort’s wastewater. The reclaimed water is used for Barona’s landscaping and golf course irrigation needs.

Jay Bart, the resort’s director of environmental safety and risk management, noted that the resort has been able to computerize irrigation control of its weather stations to fine tune how much and when areas are watered..

“We’re able to monitor the soil on the ground and water only when it’s necessary,” he said. Measures go far beyond Barona’s golf course and grounds.

Inside the resort facility, guests are encouraged to reuse linens and towels, and efforts are made to recycle materials from offices and resort trash cans. “Green” light bulbs are used, as well as non-toxic “green” cleaners. Solatubes, which reflect and magnify natural light, are used in offices to minimize the need for electrical lighting during the daytime, and dual-pane low-E windows are installed in guest rooms. Those efforts were rewarded in 2007 with a National Clean Water Award for Small Advanced Plants from the Environmental Protection Agency, Salinas said. “We reclaim 99 percent of all of our water. Everything funnels back to the water reclamation plant.”

The property also focuses on energy efficiency. Public spaces in the resort and casino are maintained at 74 degrees, and electric golf and utility carts are used for moving people around the site.

“Unlike other businesses, where the stockholders don’t live in the back yard of their business, this business is really in their backyard,” said Rick Messura, assistant general manager for hospitality.

The water treatment plant was also built to allow for future expansion. “A great deal of capacity was built into it to handle future expansion,” he said. “Several of the tribal buildings are now connected to it and several of the tribal residences. We make sure that anything we do on the resort side is in concert with the tribal community.”

Other measures taken at Barona are an organic vegetable production garden, drought-tolerant landscaping incorporating native plants and drip irrigation. “We monitor everything very carefully to make sure that it’s not being overwatered, which sometimes happens in resorts,” Messura said.

Barona also provides bus and van transportation to the resort. “We’re keen on providing opportunities to get to work through alternative means,” Salinas said.

“We’re just trying to keep vehicles off the road as much as we can.”

The casino is currently going through the LEED certification process. What we’re putting in is an application that will exceed the standards of the United States Green Building Council,” Bart said.

Aristocrat Technologies’ Viridian cabinet uses energy-saving technology to help casinos operate their slot floors more efficiently.

Aristocrat Technologies' Viridian gaming cabinet

Earlier this year, Aristocrat Technologies’s Viridian cabinet started making inroads on casino slot floors. Designed for player comfort and operator serviceability, Viridian features a slimmer footprint, high-resolution dual LCDs and unique, wrap-around belly art. Viridian embraces environmentally responsible design and production methods, resulting in a 100 percent RoHS-compliant product that minimizes energy consumption for operators.

“It’s the greenest machine we’ve ever built,” said Sean Evans, vice president of sales and marketing for Aristocrat Technologies.

“We’ve made a conscious decision to try to reduce the energy. It was pretty significant, from 200 watts down to about 50,” Evans said, noting the company uses cold cathode lighting instead fluorescent light and LEDs with longer life cycles have replaced incandescent bulbs in the buttons.

Because the machines run cooler and because of the cabinet’s overall design, there’s no need for cooling fans inside the cabinet, Evans said.

Aristocrat’s GEN7 platform also uses compact flash cards that can be reused, and the company also has started using recyclable materials in its packaging, instead of polystyrene.

The Viridian cabinet appears to be winning fans.

“We have a lot of the new Viridians,” said Buddy Frank, vice president of slot operations at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Southern California. “It’s a very nice cabinet. The energy savings are certainly an added plus.”

“We’ve been going that way [seeking energy efficiency] whenever we can with lighting, looking at more efficient LCDs. If you can keep the heat loads down, it helps,” Frank said. “Whenever we get an option like LED lighting or cold cathode lighting, any available energy savings when we can buy it, when it’s an option, we’ll grab it.”

EGM Green’s Tournament Poker Table is made from 98 percent sustainable materials.

EGM Green's Poker Table

EGM’s Tournament Poker Table, on display at this year’s World Series of Poker at the Rio hotel-casino in Las Vegas, is made from 98 percent sustainable materials.

“Casinos are taking up the mantle of sustainability, and EGM Green is positioned to help drive sustainable change by offering green products developed for casinos,” said Eric Hansel, company president.

Hansel and gaming industry veterans Dean McClain and Paul Magno are exploring the concept of a slot sustainability contest.

Everything used in the machines is 100 percent pre-consumer recycled, moisture resistant and certified to contain no added urea formaldehyde.

All the wood used in the construction is approved by the Forestry Stewardship Council. The substrate and track are constructed of urea formaldehyde-free medium-density fiber board. Paints and stains are likewise formaldehyde-free. Only water-based adhesives are used in the assembly. The underlying foam is “rebonded,” or constructed of  bits and scraps of foam that are joined to form a density suitable for gaming tables, borrowing from a process that is also used for carpet padding. The playing felt is 100 percent wool.

But quality and convenience aren’t sacrificed in the process, according to EGM.

EGM’s tables include 15 standard wood or custom finishes are available. Optional features include wood foot rings (FSC-certified veneer core hardwood plywood), padded arm rest rings, eco-friendly casino-grade poker supplies and a range of dealer accessories.

And because only sustainable design principals and resources are employed in the Green Table, casinos placing it on their floors actually can enhance their LEED (Energy and Environmental Design) rating under the Green Building Rating System, according to EGM. 

Next up:how MGM Mirage’s CityCenter project is changing the face of the Las Vegas Strip and making green history in the process.