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Travel to Arizona Resort Casinos

It’s Wacky Casino Wednesday! Throughout the month of December we’re going to visit some of the Native American run resort casinos in the Phoenix, and Tucson Arizona area. But, the criteria for our selection is not whether they just have a casino, it’s whether they have accommodations on site, in other words, a hotel.

For instance, the Gila River community has three casino properties, but only one has a hotel connected to its gaming area. (The Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Hotel has no casino.)

Native American casinos are not exclusive to Arizona. You can hop in our car in New Mexico, travel through Arizona, California and up the coast to Oregon and Washington and you will find tribal gaming in all of the previously mentioned states. A number of those casinos also have hotel accommodations and resort amenities such as golf courses.

With the exception of Arkansas and Utah, there are tribal gaming establishments in every state west of the Mississippi River. But, not all tribal gaming is Las Vegas-style with a resort and casino. Some tribal entities opt for only Bingo or Poker. Others are currently developing, or in construction of, hotels as they envision “destinations,” not just gaming.

East of the Mississippi, there are similar exceptions to the “no Tribal Gaming states” with the majority being in the Midwest: Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio, for example, do not have tribal gaming although some have several private enterprise casinos (Indiana/Illinois). Other scattered states throughout the eastern United States have no gaming at all, Tribal or private.

Although there might be some disagreement, the premier resort casinos east of the Mississippi are located in Connecticut: Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.


In retrospect, Native American gaming is relatively new. It started out as the proverbial “Bingo Hall” in 1979 when the Seminole Tribe of southern Florida fought with the state government over their sovereignty to basically do what they wished on their own land. The lawsuit took a trip to the United State Supreme Court, and yes, the rest is history! But not quite!It took until 1987 for the Federal government to concede that all federally recognized tribes had the right to operate casinos outside of the jurisdiction of any state as long as the state did not prohibit gambling. The following year the IGRA, (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) was established by Congress. In a bit of a reversal of the, “you can do whatever you want” law from the previous year, limitations were established that needed to be negotiated between the tribes and the individual states. These negotiated terms then needed to be approved by the Department of Interior.

It shouldn’t take a “state government” rocket scientist to figure out what happened during that year … can you say, “fair share of the profits” without winking?

There are now three classes of gaming (we seemed to have lost the word “gambling” along the way) with Class III the most recognizable to that of Las Vegas with slot machines, roulette, blackjack or anything that is “played against the house.”

For a list of Tribal Casinos throughout the United States and Canada:


Over the next few weeks, we will makes stops at two casinos here in the Phoenix area that have recently opened hotels, and then take a look at the newest member whose opening date is early next year.

We’ll also make our way down to Tucson and visit the only Hotel-Casino in the area.

(See the additional blog today on the Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino that debuted on October 30, 2009.)

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