Two things in my life have come to define my adulthood: growing up and living in Arizona, and exploring every casino I can find. Along with the usual gambling escapades that all casino-goers relish, I also enjoy discovering a properties most unique and interesting qualities.
That could be the surrounding area’s scenery, in-house amenities and attractions, or anything that makes a casino stand out from the crowd. I recently had the pleasure of penning reviews for my five favorite Arizona gambling halls, so read on to learn one great reason to visit 10 more of the state’s eclectic casinos.
6 – Lone Butte Casino in Chandler
To round out the rest of my “Best Reasons to Visit Each Arizona Casino” series, let’s start things off with Lone Butte Casino. Located in the East Valley suburb of Chandler, Lone Butte is only 20 minutes away from the heart of downtown Phoenix.
If you read the first installment of this two-parter – and of course you did, right? – you’ll remember Vee Quiva Hotel and Casino is one of three venues operated under the Gila River brand. Well, along with Wild Horse Pass (#11 on this list), Lone Butte is one part of the triumvirate that has become so popular among local gamblers.
Of course, the action on the gaming floor here doesn’t disappoint. With 80,000 square feet holding over 800 real money slots and video poker machines, plus 22 table games spread throughout the first and second floors, Lone Butte serves up plenty for players of all caliber.
But between Lone Butte and Wild Horse Pass, which can be found just a stone’s throw away across Interstate 10, the Gila River tribe has your gambling needs covered in spades.
The real reason to pay Lone Butte a visit on your next trip to the Valley is the venue’s big, bright bingo hall.
The bingo hall at Lone Butte comfortably seats up to 1,000 players, and the price per package of cards can range from $25 to $200 depending on the game.
Serious bingo players in the Southwest region might even remember the big news about Bingo Millions, a special contest offered at Lone Butte. To win the main $1 million Mega Jackpot prize, players must score a “coverall” – or cover their entire 5×5 grid – in 47 balls or fewer. That’s a tall order, statistically speaking, but local bingo enthusiast Michael Nolan turned the trick in February of 2018.
Nolan pocketed the life-changing prize on his 34th birthday too, making for an extra special moment for Nolan and the rest of Lone Butte’s bingo regulars.
7 – Cliff Castle Casino in Camp Verde
I’ll always have a soft spot for Cliff Castle Casino, mostly because it’s the closest place to play relative to my hometown of Sedona.
The venue itself isn’t anything special, offering a cramped gaming floor with a few blackjack tables and a couple hundred machines. The poker room is perpetually empty due to mismanagement, and the overall vibe at Cliff Castle is one of resignation and regret.
Locals know they’re better off driving a little further to somewhere like Talking Stick or Twin Arrows, but Cliff Castle has an ace up its sleeve – Sedona’s spectacular scenery. If you’re staying in the newly renovated hotel (another reason to visit), you’re only a 20 minute drive away from one of Arizona’s most iconic natural wonders.
Aside from the Grand Canyon itself, the Red Rock Country of Sedona – they say “God created the Canyon, but he lives in Sedona” – is the most visited site in all of Arizona. Seriously, just Google “Sedona Red Rocks” or “Oak Creek Canyon” to see what I mean.
The crimson spires that surround Sedona don’t serve simply as a backdrop either. You’ll find dozen’s of trailheads here that make hiking through the red rocks easily accessible.
A few of my favorite Sedona trails to explore include Devil’s Bridge – a spectacular natural arch that hikers can traverse safely – along with Sugarloaf, Broken Arrow, and West Fork. The latter trail takes visitors up Oak Creek, so come prepared to splash around a bit as you crisscross the canyonlands.
8 – Hon-Dah Resort Casino in Pinetop
One of the smaller places to play in the state, Hon-Dah Resort Casino nonetheless provides a perfectly enjoyable venue for gamblers in Northern Arizona. You’ll have to head to Pinetop to get there, but trust me, the switchbacks and scenery along the way make the trip well worth it.
If you’re content with a relative cozy casino and a basic inventory of machines and tables, book your trip to Hon-Dah during the winter months. When you do, you’ll only be 30 minutes away from the Sunrise Park Ski Resort.
Skiing in Arizona may seem like an oxymoron, but the state is actually home to several well-established slopes. In the first part of this series, I introduced readers to the Snow Bowl ski area up in Flagstaff, which is only a short drive from the Twin Arrows casino. But if you’re travelling through the White Mountains, the closest destination for a dual gambling / skiing excursion is Hon-Dah.
9 – Fort McDowell Casino in Fountain Hills
Found in the north Phoenix suburb of Fountain Hills, the Fort McDowell Casino was founded in 1992 to become one of Arizona’s original gambling halls.
The facility itself is your run of the mill tribal casino, but the feature that keeps me coming back is straight out of Fremont Street in Las Vegas. Back in the glory days of Las Vegas’ History – when Sinatra and his “Rat Pack” were doing their thing, and The Strip didn’t even exist yet – Las Vegas was known for its “sawdust joints.”
In the casino industry, the term sawdust joint typically refers to your more casual, quaint casino that doesn’t bother being pretentious. And sure enough, when you walked through the original sawdust joints in Downtown Vegas, you’d feel a soft layer of sawdust on the hardwood floor beneath your feet.
As legend has it, this sawdust was used to soak up any fluids – beer, blood, or otherwise – that happened to spill on the floor during a rowdy night of gambling. Sawdust joints were eventually replaced by the corporate-owned “carpet joints” along Las Vegas Boulevard, but you can go back in time by visiting Fort McDowell.
In a large room known as the Lucky 7 Saloon – which combines the casino with an old style watering hole and concert venue – Fort McDowell proudly spreads sawdust on the floor like its Las Vegas predecessors. I’m a sucker for any antique and relic from gambling history, so Arizona’s lone sawdust joint may not hold the same appeal to you.
But if you’re looking for a unique gambling and entertainment experience on your next trip to Phoenix, ditch the modernized casinos for a fun time at Fort McDowell.
10 – Mazatzal Casino in Payson
Mazatzal Casino in the pine tree lined city of Payson may not be the biggest or best place to play in the state, but it might just be the most comfortable.
And unlike competing casinos that aren’t as concerned with the hotel side, Mazatzal’s staff makes sure to pamper guests with room service and concierge service.
11 – Casino Arizona in Scottsdale
Located a few miles south from Talking Stick Resort, and operated by the same Salt River Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community, Casino Arizona prioritizes progressive jackpots.
The amounts obviously fluctuate as the progressive kitty grows, but Pai Gow Poker players can score over $100,000 for landing a seven-card Royal Flush. Make it a seven-card straight flush on the High Card Flush table and you’ll trigger the massive $1 million progressive.
These are by far the highest progressive jackpots on table games anywhere in the state, so Casino Arizona is always worth a visit when you’re in Phoenix.
12 – Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino
The third member of the Gila River empire, Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino recently embarked on an ambitious $143 million renovation.
That money has been invested in adding over 200 hotel rooms, several luxury suites, an outdoor swimming area with private cabanas, and even a rooftop restaurant. The casino floor is also getting refurbished and modernized, and when the project is completed in 2021, Talking Stick just might have a new rival for the swankiest casino in Arizona.
13 – Spirit Mountain Casino in Mohave Valley
If you enjoy boating, swimming, and other aquatic activities, but you can’t get down to BlueWater Casino, the next best thing is Spirit Mountain Casino in Mohave Valley.
Located near the point where Arizona borders California and Nevada, this basic tribal gambling hall is only a few minutes away from Lake Havasu. One of the largest manmade reservoirs in the state, Lake Havasu is known for its ample boating, jet skiing, wakeboarding, and fishing opportunities.
14 – Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino in Maricopa
As a member of the Caesars Entertainment corporate family, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino in Maricopa is the best place to play if you’re a loyal Total Rewards Club member. Now known as Caesars Rewards, this Player’s Club program is widely recognized as the best in the business when it comes to rewarding regulars.
If you have a Caesars Rewards card in your wallet, come to Arizona’s only Caesars operated casino to cash in your points.
15 – Desert Diamond Hotel & Casino in Tucson
For gamblers visiting the Tucson area, the southernmost of four Desert Diamond Hotel and Casino venues is an affordable alternative to the more popular Casino del Sol.
You won’t be sacrificing anything in the way of gaming options, but you can easily score savings of $100 per night on lodging and much more on dining and other amenities.
Not many states can boast the diverse array of 25 different casino destinations that Arizona gambling provides. For visitors and locals alike, you’re never more than an hour or two away from a tribal casino that covers all the required bases.
Slots, blackjack, table games, poker, bingo, keno – you name the gamble and Arizona’s casino scene won’t let you down. But even for the most hardcore players out there, you can only play so much during a trip, which is why I’m so drawn to my home state’s casino adjacent amenities. Skiing, boating, rock climbing, hiking, sightseeing… you’ll never lack for casino enhancing amenities here in good old “State 48.”
I hope you enjoyed part two about tribal casinos in Arizona, if you would like to read the third and final installment, check out part three here.