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Bay Area residents traveling in the area of the Sierra or Sequoia national forests, or on the way to vacation at Shaver Lake, can find a friendly slotmachine diversion at the Mono Wind Casino in Auberry.

Mono Wind is northeast of Fresno, about a ½-hour’s easy country drive past the Friant Dam and Millerton Lake on the way to Shaver Lake, a popular Sierra vacation spot.

Its poker room is temporarily closed. For those who prefer them, the 10,000-square-foot casino boasts many electro-mechanical slot machines in addition to video-type slots. In a nice touch, the staff makes sure there are two individually packaged moist towelettes in the change bin at each machine, and most of the machines accept pocket change — a happy circumstance for those few errant quarters in one’s pocket.

On a recent morning visit, everyone on the staff — from the security guard at the front door, to the cashier and the woman in the gift shop — was cordial and talkative. Even a friendly teenage rancheria resident stopped to talk outside the casino.

Surprisingly, Mono Wind executives did not return phone calls or e-mails for comment.

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The complimentary Farmer Bros. Co. coffee was very good. There are security cameras in the parking lot.

Slots are housed in a round “sprung” structure, one of those metal-reinforced fabric buildings, and in a more permanent building that houses the restaurant, slots, poker room and gift shop. There are also slots in the hallway connecting the two structures.

Mono Wind is operated by the Big Sandy Band of Western Mono Indians.

A $250 million expansion, including a 250- to 300-room hotel, more than 75,000 square feet of gaming space, at least 2,000 slot machines, approximately 20 gaming tables and a collection of restaurants, retail shops, meeting space and entertainment facilities, first proposed in 2004 for 48 acres of the rancheria, is on hold. The casino can draw on the 1.2 million people living in the greater Fresno area.

The Big Sandy rancheria is entitled to 1,650 additional slot machine licenses awarded in a state drawing Oct. 5, but withdrew its application and is evaluating its expansion plans.

Mono Wind Casino

Where: 37302 Rancheria Lane, Auberry, Calif., 93602
Phone: (559) 855-4350
On the Web: www.monowind.com
Slots: 350
Tables: Poker room closed temporarily
Extras: Open 24 hours, Broken Arrow restaurant open daily

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