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This Casino General Manager Shows Us His Hand

Written By: Patricia Kemp
Photographed By: John Pacheco Palm Springs Casino

By the luck of the draw, Jef Bauer fell into the gaming industry. While attending the University of Nevada in 1987, the journalism student applied as a “sportswriter” at Harrah’s Reno. He quickly learned that he would be writing bet tickets for the casino’s race and sportsbook. What started as a summer gig turned into a career that has spanned more than 30 years. At Augustine Casino, Bauer continues to up the ante as General Manager at one of Coachella Valley’s favorite local casinos, which includes 800 slot machines, eight gaming tables, two restaurants and two bars all serviced by nearly 400 employees. Palm Springs Casino

Bauer worked his way up the ladder in leadership roles at Harrah’s Entertainment, Majestic Star Casino in Indiana, Golden Casino Group in Colorado and MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa at Lake Tahoe, Nevada where he was hands-on in nearly every corner of operations—from front of house at restaurants and nightclubs to overall marketing strategies.

Bauer became an in-demand player in the gaming industry due to his innate ability to take fledgling casinos and transform them into high-performing entertainment destinations, which was precisely why he was brought on as the head honcho at Augustine Casino in 2013. Over the last six years, Bauer ushered in structure and stability with new leadership, putting the enterprise on an upswing. He was also instrumental in boosting staff morale by working with the tribe to raise team members’ hourly pay and add a company-matched 401(k) retirement plan. 

Adding these benefits to health coverage, paid time off and free shift meals led high-turnover jobs to become careers with longevity. “The last 20 years of my career have been focused on turnarounds. Anytime an operation seems to be on the backslide—and that can be from a number of factors, from the economy to leadership—that’s usually when I’ll get the call to come fix the problem,” Bauer said. “But even before eyeballing changes, I like to learn the market, learn the customer, learn the team and then after that assessment, make the changes that are going to move the operation forward.”

Under Bauer’s leadership, Augustine Casino is enjoying record-breaking prosperity and was twice named Business of the Year in 2015 and 2017 by the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce, as well as garnering favorable local reader poll and business awards. 

“We’re a local’s place. Our entire strategy is to provide the best value to our customers that we possibly can. And that is how we compete—with value and service,” Bauer explains. “All our employees are trained to be ‘golden’ every day. We’re friendly, warm, welcoming and a real value. No one else in this market is going after that, and we continue to own it.”

Although Augustine Casino is on a roll, Bauer’s not ready to cash in his chips just yet. As a farm kid from South Dakota who connected with Native American culture since his youth, Bauer feels at home with the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians, who built more than just a successful gaming empire in the Coachella Valley. In addition to the 25,000 solar panels that power the casino, the tribe operates a 33-acre sustainable organic farm growing Medjool dates, romaine lettuce and other vegetables on tribal land.

“One of the reasons I’m still here is because I love this tribe,” Bauer said. “I really love the way they’ve innovated, they’ve persevered and the way they treat their casino workers. The tribe is on a resurgence because of the prosperity of the casino and I love being a part of that. I’m really proud to work for them.”

Every December the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians hosts a holiday toy and food drive at its casino to benefit local families. The Ophelia Project, Coachella Valley Boxing Gym, Martha’s Village and Galilee Center are just some of the local charities the tribe supports year round. All combined, the tribe contributed $4 million to Coachella Valley philanthropic initiatives over the last 15 years. Palm Springs Casino

From first-time guests to returning regulars, Bauer recommends budget-friendly food options at the casino’s two restaurants, Menyikish Grill and Café 54, which offer $3.95 burger or taco lunch combos. Weekends roll out a sensational Seafood Buffet including all-you-can-eat baked lobster tails, filet mignon, Duck à l’Orange, New York Steak, prime rib, crab legs and dessert.

In his downtime from Augustine Casino, you’ll find the father of three, with one more on the way this fall, and his wife hiking and exploring the Coachella Valley, playing tennis, enjoying music and movies and spending quality time with family.

Augustine Casino
84-001 Avenue 54
Coachella CA, 92236
760.209.5885 Palm Springs Casino