What’s better to attract a big audience than an attempt to set a Guinness World Record? Management of the Viejas Casino in Alpine, California started thinking how to top their 14-hour free buffet they had last year for the 20th Anniversary. The idea to create the world’s largest blackjack table was a think-tank decision that the Viejas team rallied behind.
“Our 20th anniversary was about the business side of the Casino so we wanted to showcase the gaming inside the casino,” said Viejas Casino General Manager Chris Kelley.
Mike Lewis, Viejas superintendent of construction and trades, got the green light to construct the table two weeks before the celebration. “We always have a lot going on, but I have an amazing team, so we began immediately after receiving the official requirements from Guinness,” he said.
Philip Robertson, an official “adjudicator” for Guinness, sent the plans that specified the blackjack table, cards and chips needed to be 10 times the size of the normal table, cards and chips.
Lewis’ team of seven construction crew members began the task. “A standard Blackjack table is 18.5 sq. feet, so for insurance we planned a 2,000 sq. ft. table,” Lewis said. “We framed, scribed and applied the tongue and grove plywood in the parking lot. We pieced it together inside the DreamCatcher showroom and covered the entire table with half-inch foam.”
To find felt big enough to cover the massive table, the felt was shipped from Las Vegas. Once created into a 200 sq yd solid piece by a local upholsterer, and installed by the Viejas in-house upholstery crew, the 12 inch (normal is four) rail was built and added to the table. The marketing team oversaw the creation of the large scale cards and chips.
Excitement grew quickly in San Diego County when more than 2200 players arrived to try their luck for free on the huge blackjack table. Fifty players at a time were escorted in and out of the showroom for 11 hours.
Robertson was awed by what he found inside the showroom. “I arrived to see the most remarkable blackjack table I’ve ever seen,” he said. “They met the minimum requirements, and I saw an actual hand of blackjack played, so it set an official record.”
Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians Tribal Council Members present included: Vice Chairman, Robert Cita Welch; Secretary, Anita Uqualla; Treasurer, Sam Q. Brown; Councilmember, Victor E. Woods; and Councilmember Raymond Bear Cuero.
The giveaway of $21,000 was cleverly tied into the game of 21 and the 21st Anniversary of Viejas. “Anytime we have an anniversary it’s special for us,” Sam Q. Brown said. “I thought it was a great plan.”
Robert Scheid, Vice President-Community and Public Relations of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, informed those in attendance of the progress the Viejas tribe has made in 21 years.
“Since the Viejas Casino opened its doors, it’s been setting milestones, breaking records and become a leader in this industry to see how things are done and to be successful,” he said.
At 9 p.m. Vice Chairman Welch drew 12 tickets from a big drum. One winner received $10,000, and 11 others each won $1,000.
When asked if this competition might encourage other casinos to try for the title, Robertson responded, “I don’t think anyone will attempt anything this extraordinary for a while.”
General Manager Kelley added, “It’s even better than I anticipated.”