Bruce Howard Isn’t Gambling on Hospitality

Valley View Casino & Hotel’s Bruce Howard on making every experience about the guest

In March 2018, San Diego-based Valley View Casino & Hotel broke ground on a $50 million expansion and renovation project that had been more than a year in the making. Included in the massive upgrade is a new restaurant and bar, two new entrances for ease of access, an additional 43,000 square feet of overall casino space, a renovation of the hotel, existing casino, and restaurants, and a litany of other additions created with Valley View’s guests in mind.

General manager Bruce Howard, a veteran of the gaming and hospitality industry for more than thirty-three years, says Valley View’s unique approach to its guests is what stoked the extensive undertaking. “What do our guests want when they visit our casino and how can we exceed their expectations is always my first question,” Howard says. “I think we do a good job at seeing our business through the eyes of our guests.” Coming from Howard, it sounds less like a brag than a simple fact uttered by a man who describes his hobby outside of work as “the casino business.” Howard highlighted some of the most eye-popping aspects of the renovation for American Builders Quarterly.

The First 30 Seconds

Howard says the expansion and renovation will be noticeable before guests even get inside. “In addition to our magnificent new grand entrance that will feature a dramatic three-story glass enclosure for guests who like to take advantage of our free valet parking service, we will also be adding a convenient second entrance just steps away from our 1,500 space parking garage,” Howard says. He says it’s imperative to keep the first thirty seconds of a guest’s experience in mind, as that’s how long it usually takes to form a first impression, one that can be hard to shake if it’s not right. “We’re big on first impressions, and we’re big on details,” Howard says. “We want our mashed potatoes to be as good as our slot machines and our hotel rooms.”

The New Eats

The addition of a new restaurant and bar inside Valley View has Howard excited, and it will certainly be serving more than just mashed potatoes. “Our new restaurant & bar, called Patties & Pints, will offer a fun, creative, upscale casual menu along with a full bar that features a sophisticated draft beer system serving many varieties of the coldest draft beers along with an extensive take-out service,” Howard says. The general manager had shied away from draft beer until technology caught up with his desire for every glass to be the perfect pour. “We always do it just right or we don’t do it at all.”

The New Gaming Space

“It may not sound like much, but adding an additional 18 inches of space between every single bank of slot machines will mean a lot to our guests,” he says. Valley View is adding 43,000 square feet of additional gaming, including more state-of-the-art slot machines and more table games, a new restaurant and bar, additional restrooms, and more public space to its current 100,000-square-foot footprint. As the casino is set to renew its tribal gaming compact for another twenty-five years, Howard says it’s the perfect time to make upgrades to the entire building that will put Valley View on the same playing field as any California or Las Vegas casino. The added casino space and new gaming compact will allow Valley View to increase its slot machine count from 2,000 to 2,250. The additional space throughout the casino will help make every guest feel right at home, Howard says.

The New Hotel

Along with the casino expansion, Valley View’s boutique 108-room hotel recently underwent an extensive refurbishment including the addition of new carpet, new drapes, new mattresses, and new couches to all of the king and queen rooms, as well as in its suites. Howard says considering all points of the casino is essential to the guest experience, which is why Valley View is constantly challenging itself to be better. He also says it may be the only hotel in the country that includes everything when a price is quoted. “When we quote you a price on a hotel room or suite and you check out the next morning, you’ve parked, you’ve enjoyed a beautiful room with a magnificent mountain view, you’ve used the internet, you’ve had a delicious breakfast, that’s all included with no taxes added in the price quoted, so our guests are paying the same price checking out as they were quoted checking in.”

The Experience

Thinking about the project at a high level, Howard says it’s important for Valley View’s guests to understand the focus behind the expansion and renovation project. Valley View Casino draws more than two million guests a year, and more than half of its guests live closer to one of the ten other casinos within a ninety-minute drive of Valley View’s front entrance. That means they’re making a special effort to get to Valley View, and the casino’s employees wants their guests to know that they truly value that kind of loyalty. “People are driving past other casinos to get here,” Howard says. “It’s our job to let them know that they made the right choice and that we truly appreciate their patronage and their support.”

Valley View’s focus on experience transfers over to its nine hundred team members, too. It has one of the lowest team member turnover rates of any California casino, and Howard says he makes it a personal goal for all of his teammates to be as excited to come to work as they are to drive home.

The casino will remain open during the entire expansion and renovation, and Howard says that he’s learned to enjoy the entire process, from planning to construction to opening day. With a grand opening planned for July, Howard reflects on a life in gaming with a laugh. “I feel like I’ve been under construction for my entire thirty-three years in the business, and I have loved every minute of it. Ours is a business unlike any other and I am privileged to be a part of it.”