The Arizona Casino Scene

Arizona State Flag and an Arizona Casino

Arizona has a more robust casino gambling scene than many other states, but less of a presence than others. It’s no Nevada, for sure.

You’ll find a couple dozen Native American casinos throughout the state offer gambling machines that include slots, video blackjack, video keno, and video poker. Many casinos in Arizona also offer table games like blackjack and casino war.

Unless you’re playing bingo or pull-tab games, the gambling age in Arizona is 21. You can play bingo and pull-tabs as young as 18, though.

Fantasy sports, betting on sports, and online casinos are all illegal in Arizona.

An Alphabetical List of Casinos in Arizona

Here’s an alphabetical list of all of the Arizona gambling options:

  • Apache Gold Casino Resort
  • Apache Sky Casino
  • BlueWater Resort and Casino
  • Bucky’s Casino
  • Casino Arizona
  • Casino del Sol
  • Casino of the Sun
  • Cliff Castle Casino
  • Cocopah Resort Casino
  • Desert Diamond Casino
  • Desert Diamond Casino, Sahuarita
  • Desert Diamond Casino, West Valley
  • Desert Diamond Hotel & Casino
  • Fort McDowell Casino
  • Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino
  • Hon-Dah Resort Casino
  • Lone Butte Casino
  • Mazatzal Casino
  • Paradise Casino
  • Spirit Mountain Casino
  • Talking Stick Resort
  • Twin Arrows Casino Resort
  • Vee Quiva Hotel & Casino
  • Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino
  • Yavapi Casino

As you can probably tell from the names of the casinos, Arizona casinos are all tribal casinos. And they often lean into Native American stereotypes and actual tribe names for their casino names.

What Are the Biggest Casinos in Arizona?

You have multiple ways of measuring the size of the biggest US casinos. One common measurement is to look at how much square footage of gaming space the casino has. Another is to measure the number of gambling machines in the establishment.

For purposes of this post, I’m going to loosely categorize the biggest casinos in Arizona by how many slot machines and other gambling machines they offer.

Desert Diamond Casino – West Valley is probably the biggest casino in Arizona. They offer over 1100 different slot machines. That’s about the same as the #2 on this list, but they also offer a relatively huge number of blackjack (48) and poker tables (36).

Desert Diamond Casino West Valley in Arizona

It’s a 75,000 square foot facility with a steakhouse and an Italian bistro on site. They also have a bar and a smaller café.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino also have over 1100 slot machines, but they only have 17 blackjack tables and 17 poker tables. They have a buffet restaurant on site as well as a golf course nearby. The hotel has 300 rooms.

Desert Diamond Casino – Tucson is on par with Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, with 1100 slot machines, 18 blackjack tables, and 14 poker tables. They also have many of the same amenities as the Harrah’s Ak-Chin, although the restaurants are different.

Some Historical Context Related to Arizona Casinos and Gambling

20+ Indian tribes lie in Arizona, and it’s impossible to consider the casino gambling scene in the state without thinking about the Native American tribes there. That’s because in 1988, the United States passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

This law enabled Native American tribes to operate casinos legally. It wasn’t smooth sailing, initially, though as the states and tribes must negotiate individual agreements with the state (per IGRA). With so many tribes, it required a lot of consensus-building and took half a decade to get anywhere.

Of course, now, almost all 20 tribes are involved in operate casinos throughout the state of Arizona.

Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino Floor

Legally, you can only gamble at tribal casinos in the state – or on horse racing or the state lottery. It doesn’t matter which type of legal gambling activity you participate in, it falls under the purview of the Arizona Tribal-State Gaming Compacts. These are agreements between the state of Arizona and the tribes operating gambling businesses there. The Arizona Gaming Commission oversees the implementation of these compacts.

25% of the land in the state of Arizona belongs to Native American tribes, so they have plenty of space on which to operate casinos. The casinos are required to use the funds from these businesses for charity for the tribes’ benefit.

What Are the Blackjack Rules and Conditions Like in Arizona Casinos?

Real money blackjack conditions and rules vary from casino to casino. Sometimes they even vary from table to table. In some states, they even charge you a fee on every hand you play.

Here are some examples of the kinds of blackjack conditions you might find in Arizona casinos. They might be different depending on which casino you’re visiting. Also, casinos change their rules periodically, so this is meant to be illustrative rather than definitive.

I’ve read reports of at least one casino offering a blackjack game from two decks of cards. The dealer has to stand on a hard 17+ but hits a soft 17 , and you’re allowed to double on any first two cards. You’ve even allowed to double after splitting. The minimum bet at a table like this would be $10 or more per hand. The maximum bet was $500 per hand.

Desert Diamond Casino Blackjack Table  Game

You might be able to find better blackjack situations than this if you scout around. A lot of advantage players and card counters avoid sharing where the best games are in any state. That’s one of the main reasons these games disappear, so they avoid publicizing them.

Some Arizona casinos use continuous shuffling machines. If that’s the case, forget about counting cards at those tables. It won’t work.

The Poker Rooms in Arizona Casinos

It’s impossible to stay completely up to date on the poker conditions in all Arizona cardrooms, as their practices change whenever the cardroom managers decide to change them. But here are some examples of what was available when I researched this post.

At the Desert Diamond Casino, West Valley, they use automatic shuffling machines and happily cash checks for their poker players. They offer bad beat jackpots, and you’re able to order food from the table.

They also have non-smoking poker tables available, and you can earn casino comps and apply your poker play toward the casino’s rewards program. They have a bank of televisions to watch and wifi service. Cell phone reception from the cardroom is good.

That list of amenities is pretty standard for most Arizona casinos with cardrooms, although some of the perks can vary from one casino to another. For example, the Desert Diamond Tucson also offers poker players half-price food when they’re playing at the tables.

Will Sports Betting Be Legalized in Arizona?

As I write this post, it’s still illegal to bet on sports in Arizona. The legal situation related to sports betting is always apt to change, though – especially in the last couple of years.

In 2019, someone put forth a bill to legalize and regulate sports betting in Arizona, but it died with little fanfare.

In 2020, two more bills – one of which is identical to the 2019 bill – offered hope to sports bettors who want to bet legally in the state. HB 2813 was one of those bills. It would have legalized sports betting and horse racing tracks throughout the state. Tribal casinos would only be allowed to open sportsbooks in their casinos with approval from the state. Since the tribes feel like they should be allowed to offer sports betting no matter what, they were opposed to this bill.

SB 1525 was the duplicate of the 2019 bill trying to legalize sports betting in Arizona. It would have made it legal for every tribal casino in the state to offer sports betting, although mobile and online sports betting would still be illegal.

Both bills were put on the back burner when the legislative session ended on April 25. They might see renewed interest and action in 2021, though.

Conclusion

The Arizona gambling scene is more robust than many states, although you still can’t bet on sports legally yet. Unlike many states with tribal casinos, Arizona does offer real (Class III) slot machines. They also offer a great selection of table games – especially blackjack.

Whether Arizona will eventually add sports betting to the menu is anyone’s guess. It looks like it will happen eventually, but with the large number of Indian tribes who have differing opinions on how that should be handled, it might take a while for everyone to find consensus.

Posted in: Arizona

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