By Steve Beauregard
It has a major university, international vibe, and 1 million residents. Tucson also has a thriving casino market, with four nearby casinos satisfying area residents’ gambling itch.
In addition, there are eight casinos in the Phoenix and Scottsdale area, 115 miles up Intestate 10.
All four of the Tucson-area casinos are located south of downtown Tucson.
They are all Indian casinos, with two tribes owning two casinos each. If you never been to one, you’ll notice some differences between these, and your traditional Las Vegas style casinos.
For one, there are no free alcoholic drinks served at these four casinos near Tucson. While the casinos do have liquor licenses, players have to pay to drink.
There are also fewer game options. You’ll find plenty of slot machines and video poker, but you won’t find wheel-based craps or the common site of a lengthy craps table with gamblers hooting and hollering for a number to appear.
There are craps and roulette games at these casinos, but they are of the electronic kind, rather than live action.
(Each colored pin represents one of the four casinos near Tucson)
Here’s a brief description of the four casinos in the Tucson area.
Casino Del Sol Resort, Spa & Conference Center (Red pin on map)
The Casino Del Sol Resort is a contemporary hotel and casino situated 15 miles southwest of downtown Tucson. It’s a 30 minute drive to the resort from downtown.
Built in 2001, the casino is run by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. The resort is beautiful, with lovely modern exterior and pretty landscaping outside while the interior boasts a Mediterranean décor with the faux sky roof (like you see at the Paris Las Vegas), that always seems to work and adding ambience.
The casino part of Casino Del Sol boasts 1,300 slots and 24 table games, including blackjack, Fortune Pai Gow Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’em and Three Card poker.
There is also a 15 table poker room spreading games as low as $2/4 limit hold’em, and a 600 seat bingo room.
Dining options include the requisite fine steakhouse, a buffet, an upscale Mexican restaurant, a “quick bite’ taqueria, an American diner, a Chinese restaurant, two Starbucks, and a deli. The Oasis Bar at the pool has your quesadillas, pizza, club sandwiches, and the like.
Including the Oasis bar, there are six bars at the Casino Del Sol
The 225 room hotel has a spa & fitness center, a 65,000 square foot conference center, and the adjoining Sewailo Golf Course.
The resort’s AVA Amphitheater is a gem, and seats 5,000. It’s hosted everyone from Don Henley to Toby Keith to Van Halen.
5655 W. Valencia Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85757
Phone: (520) 838-6506
Casino of the Sun (Yellow pin)
Two miles southeast of Casino del Sol is the resort’s much smaller sister property, the Casino of the Sun.
Originally opened as a bingo hall only, this no-frills casino has 300 slot machies, no table games, nor hotel. The Sunflower Café is the only dining option here.
Desert Diamond Casino & Hotel Tucson (Green pin)
The Desert Diamond casino chain has three casinos in the Phoenix and Scottsdale areas, including two in or around Tucson. (There’s another one in Why, Arizona, but that’s over a 2 hour drive to the west of Tucson, and therefore is not covered in this article).
The Desert Diamond Tucson is the flagship, and is located right across from Tucson International Airport, about 10 miles (or 15 kilometers), south of downtown. A typical drive would be between 20 to 30 minutes.
The new contemporary resort building and hotel opened in 2007, replacing the white dome structure that had been in place for years prior.
In addition to a wide selection of 1,300 slots, the casino has blackjack and a 12 table poker room (with tournament running almost daily). They do not offer games like craps or roulette.
The resort’s keno game runs until 11 PM on weeknights, and 12:30 AM on weekends.
Bingo is big here, as it probably should, since the Desert Diamond originally opened as just a bingo hall. Today, the casino’s bingo area seats up to 300 gamblers.
In addition to the 250 seat buffet, the Desert Diamond Tucson has the typical casino coffee shop, called the Diamond Café, and a food Court consisting of a pizza place, the Diamond Grill (salads, sandwiches), and a coffee bar.
Attached to the casino is the 148 room hotel and popular Monsoon Nightclub.
Address and Phone number:
7350 S. Nogales Highway
Tucson, AZ. 85756
Poker room: (520) 342-1810
Desert Diamond Casino Sahuarita (Blue Pin)
Twenty-one miles south of downtown lies the Desert Diamond Casino Sahuarita.
The desolate drive south on Interstate 19 will take you around a half hour.
Opened in 2001, this Sahuarita location is open 24 hours a day, and is home to 600 slot machines, blackjack tables (including Spanish 21), and keno.
While the casino is open 24 hours a day, please note that the table games are open only from 10 AM to 2 AM. The Desert Diamond Casino doesn’t have craps tables, roulette, or poker tables – just blackjack.
The small keno lounge is open from 10 AM to 10:30 PM, Sunday through Thursday, and from 10 AM until 12:30 AM on weekends.
There are four restaurants here, including the more upscale Agave restaurant, and the casual Desert Buffet.
The Desert Diamond Sahuarita has a large concert venue called the Diamond Center. With 2,064 seats, it plays host to well-known comedians like Jim Belushi and Brian Regan, bands like Three Dog Night, Kansas, along with cover-bands as well.
1100 W. Pima Mine Road
Phone: (520) 294-7777
(Photos courtesy of Nick Bastian via Flickr, The Casino Del Sol and Desert Diamond Hotel & Casino Tucson)