Arizona - TThe Tohono O'odham Nation plans to tear
down its original, bare-bones Desert
Diamond Casino complex at 7350 S. Nogales Highway
and replace it with an opulent casino, 200-room hotel
Diamond CEO Joe Calabrese estimated the project's total
cost at $80 million.
resolution to build this project just recently passed
the Tribal Council," Calabrese said. "We hope
to break ground this year. We're working on designs, but
haven't chosen one.
construction will occur in increments so that we never
have to close the casino down completely. Gaming won't
O'odham also own a more glamorous Desert
Diamond Casino, just east of Interstate 19 at Pima
Mine Road, that opened four years ago. That property has
three restaurants with indulgences like champagne buffets
and a 2,400-seat hall that hosts boxing matches and concerts.
It cost $52 million to build.
And near Why, about 100 miles west of Tucson on the western
edge of the Tohono O'odham Nation, the tribe operates
Ha:san Casino, which opened in 1999.
original casino, just south of East Los Reales Road, began
life in 1984 as Papago Bingo. Casino gaming was added
in 1993, the same year the U.S. Interior Department approved
gaming compacts between Arizona and tribes.
Nogales Highway property consists of a huge, white,
oblong tent abutted by concrete bunkers. More than 800
gambling machines are packed inside. The main interior
decorations are vibrant murals of javelinas, mountain
goats and mountain sunsets painted on the tent walls.
O'odham Nation Chairwoman Vivian Juan-Saunders said the
Tohono O'odham council debated whether to tackle such
an ambitious project in a still-faltering economy.
decided all economic development involves some risk-taking,"
Juan-Saunders said. "We realized we need to diversify
our operations to include more entertainment. Some people
go to casinos because they love gaming. But many people
go because they just want to socialize."
going to have a 300-seat buffet and a venue for live music.
We also want to add things for the community, like a coffee
shop, convenience store."
wants the new casino to be fully open for business in
all this mean more competition for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe's
Casino Del Sol?
course!" replied Casino Del Sol marketing director
Del Sol, at 5655 W. Valencia Road, opened in 2001
with an interior modeled on a fantasy of a Tuscan village.
The ceiling is decorated with a sky mural. It has more
than 990 gambling machines and also offers blackjack,
poker and bingo.
also contains a retro diner and an elegant restaurant.
And it boasts a 4,800-seat amphitheater, which Ward believes
will give Casino Del Sol a competitive edge.
tried to set ourselves apart from other casinos with entertainers
who have nationally recognized names and huge followings,"
named a few of the acts that generated generous buzz.
Halen reunited and played here and Toby Keith was a huge
hit," Ward said. "And Tom Jones will be singing
state, Tucson and Pima County also have a stake in the
success of the new Desert
Diamond project since Arizona gaming tribes must pay
a percentage of their earnings for civic improvements.
to the Tohono O'odham Nation's economic impact report
for last year, casino operations generate more than $800,000
in state taxes and over $8 million in federal taxes annually.
salaries, subcontractors and purchases are combined, the
report said, Tohono O'odham casino operations inject over
$75 million into Southern Arizona's economy each year.
month, the Tohono O'odham Nation announced that it had
contributed $646,292 to the city of Tucson and Pima County
as part of the revenue-sharing program that resulted from
Proposition 202, which voters approved in 2002.
funds will support more than a dozen programs in health
care, education and public safety. The city will receive
$331,000 and Pima County will receive $315,292.