Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cashing Out

Well. This is it. The semester is winding down to an end, I'm staring graduation in the face, and my visits to the casinos have come to a close. I've never been a gambler, but I will miss some aspects about my visits to the Desert Diamond Casino and Casino Del Sol

First and foremost, it was the vibe. It's not that I'm opposed to gambling, I like the idea of it. The fact of the matter, is I'd rather spend my money on ______ (fill in blank with normal fun activities). But, that said, I do appreciate the casino's ability to keep you rocking at all hours, any hour, anytime. The work ethic inside of a gambling establishment is admirable. No matter if you're the security guard making sure no one is abusing the cocktail waitresses at 5 a.m., or the man determined to win back his paycheck in desperate attempts to avoid a divorce lawyer, every things alive. 

It's the complimentary services, the pop music blaring at 1 a.m. with the neon lights confusing your bodily clock, the luck, the loss, and the simple passion. Even if you're opposed to the possibility of addiction, finances being torn to shreds, or the dependency on the thrill, there's one thing for certain; it's a place that keeps your heart ticking. 

So, as I cruise through the rest of college with aspirations of a new diploma in my right hand, I'm adding a new addition to my "Graduation Bucket List." I plan on spending a recreational amount of time at one of Southern Arizona's casinos. I'm not saying I'm going to bet a lot, I'm not saying I'm going on a bender, but I'm going to walk through those doors without a notebook and pen in my hand, with no intentions of interviewing anyone, and I might even strap on a cowboy hat to fit in. 

Hit me!! 

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Bird Cage Theatre

Long before the days of eBay themed slot machines, all-you-can eat king crab, and complimentary executive suites, Ariz. was home to one of the Wild West's most infamous gambling establishments. 

The Bird Cage Theatre, located at 517 E. Allen Street in Tombstone, Ariz. now stands as a memorial to one of history's most rowdy, dangerous, and infamous places to play blackjack, poker and faro. The building, which originally opened in 1881, stayed open 24/7 for eight consecutive years, as a bar, casino, and brothel. Wild company and lawlessness lead to shootings, stabbings, and famous guests, including Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. 

As a place to drink, gamble, and sit in "cages," to watch live entertainment, the Bird Cage Theatre was one of Tombstone's most popular attractions. The theatre was also the setting for a continuous poker game that was played every day for eight years, five months and three days. The minimum buy in was $1,000, which led to the Bird Cage Theatre taking in more than $1 Million dollars between 1881 and 1889. 

Today, tourists are able to see the poker and blackjack tables where some of the Old West's most famous figures tested the luck of the draw. With many of the pieces of furniture, and the entire bar still preserved, you can see your reflection in the same mirrors the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday saw their own. 
Of course, you might get more than you bargained for, as the Bird Cage Theatre was the site of 26 murders, and allegedly the restless spirits of the victims still haunt the establishment. 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

University of Gambling

Planner: A 30 page paper in Presidential Leadership, an Industrial Organization test, and $1 dollar on number seven.

"They have machine roulette," said Emily Lee, a senior communications and econ major at the University of Arizona, and a casual gambler at Casino Del Sol and the Desert Diamond Casino. "There was two weeks where I went almost every day."

The casino continues to be a once-a-month source of occasional entertainment for Lee, and other students looking to luck out on some quick cash to pay the bills, buy some books, or fund the next bar tab."I only go when I'm really bored," said Lee. "When there's absolutely nothing to do, it's like 'oh lets go to the casino.'"

The voyages, which are normally taken with a group of friends, generally last for about five hours. "It goes by so fast when you're there you don't even realize it," said Lee.

But with many other places to go, why 15 miles away from campus at the casino? "It's the excitement of when it lands on your number and feeling lucky," said Lee. "You can go there and drink and gamble."

When at the casinos, Lee spends most of her time playing roulette and black jack, and has once taken part in the Casino Del Sol's cosmic bingo. 

"There's this drag queen that calls you a stupid bitch if you call bingo and don't have it," said Lee.

Study break? 

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monsoon Season

I'm not a gambling expert, infact, I don't gamble, but something tells me that when you're winning big, sometimes you might just want to dance. 

The Desert Diamond Casino has answered that call, by offering guests of the hotel and visitors of the casino the Monsoon Night Club. It's a typical lounge and club with a $5 dollar cover, cheap drink specials, and an entertaining ambiance for club hoppers and concert goers alike. 

Open from 8 p.m. till 2 a.m. on weekend nights, the club offers two full bars, rows of tables, booths, video screens, a large wooden dance floor and a stage for live performances. 

The club's entertainment is appealing to both younger and older crowds depending on the performers and genres. Friday nights are equipped with flashing lights, and a packed younger crowd accompanied by the loud, dance inspiring Fiesta DJ's. 

Saturday nights are full of cowboy hats, belt buckles, and an older two-stepping audience that enjoys the club's themed Tejano Saturday Nights. The Mexican music genre brings performers like Los Gallegos and Grupo LaMadrid. 

Saturday night drink specials include $3 dollar wells tequila sunrises, $3 dollar Mexican imported beers, and $2 dollar Frozen Fat Tuesdays, which resemble Slurpee's with an adult addition of tequila or rum. 

"People come here to dance, have fun, and have some drinks," said Marc Jones, the manager of the Monsoon Night Club.  

To keep things classy, the night club also enforces a dress code, which includes no hats, no excessively baggy clothes, and no sleeveless shirts. 

Monday, March 30, 2009

Smoke Signals

According to the American Lung Association, 430,700 people die each year as a result of smoking. Never the less, the Desert Diamond Casino is still a cigarette friendly establishment, and the nearby Tobacco Barn, located at 7310 S Nogales Hwy, is the perfect place for a gambler to stock up before they light up.

"We have a little under a hundred brands of cigarettes," said Julien Ruiz, an employee at the Tobacco Barn.
Ruiz is spending his morning running out to the twelve cars lined up at the barn's drive thru window, taking window orders from customers with a walkie talkie to expedite the sales process. 

The establishment, located in the parking lot of the Desert Diamond Casino, caters to coming and going gamblers, as well as other Tucson residents from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., on the weekdays, and as late as 8 p.m. on the weekends.

Operating only through drive thru windows, customers wait in their cars for up to a half an hour for the reduced prices and extensive selection of cigarettes, rolling and chewing tobacco.
A box of Marlboro's might cost up to $6.99 at a local convenience store, but the Tobacco Barn sells them for $3.50. The lines of cars overflowing the parking lot and backed into the right lane of the Nogales Hwy suggest that the low prices are not a secret, and the smoke isn't fading anytime soon. 

Monday, March 23, 2009

You Can Sleep When You're Dead

It's 11:30 p.m. on a Sunday as most of the city sets their alarm clocks, and prepare for the work week ahead... but somehow, under the pitch black desert sky, I'm having trouble finding parking at the Casino Del Sol

The casino, open 24/7, demonstrates that although scattered headlights are the only thing illuminating the surrounding road, the establishment has no concept of turning out the lights. 

"Between 11 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. we usually have between 130 to 150 people on the weekdays," said Amber Phelps, a floor attendant at the Casino Del Sol. 

But who are these people? Who frequents a gambling establishment in the middle of the night on a Sunday? Truthfully, I expected to witness a small, scattered group of individuals who would be pulling slots with one hand, and dialing their Gamblers Anonymous sponsors with the other. 

While entering the casino, an elderly couple joining hands as they walked to a new group of slot machines killed that assumption. To my surprise, that wasn't even the only elderly couple there. It was... busy. The crowd is no different from normal, it's still cowboy hats, younger crowds with University of Arizona apparel, and a variety of other players from all walks of life. 

"30 to 40 percent of the people here are regulars at this time of night," said David Cadena, a floor attendant. 

The other 60 percent appear as eclectic as the crowd on a Saturday afternoon. 

The casino's black jack tables, slot machines, Moby's restaurant, bars, and hallways are populated. Upbeat pop music, and classic '80's hits blare through the casino's speaker system, competing with the relentless slot machine chimes. Hardworking waitresses scurry through the sparsely populated hallways with trays of drinks to deliver to thirsty gamblers. The dealers, security and staff all seem alert. It's business as usual. 

According to the staff, things will only get busier. "People with money start coming in between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. in the morning," said Cadena. "Sometimes they don't leave and stay for days."

With no adjacent hotel, there is no orthodox place in the casino for gamblers to sleep, but the Casino Del Sol's illuminated sky blue ceiling serves as an artificial shot of vitamin D and energy to all casino guests. If you don't keep track of what time it is, the casino has no intention of reminding you. 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Tulalip Casino...

As most college kids try to frequent Mexican hot-spots, Las Vegas, or other festive, warm destinations for Spring Break... I have returned home to Seattle, Wash., constant rain and 40 degree weather included. So, I figured I'd take a 45 minute drive to the Tulalip Casino.

With a sprawling casino, and newly attached resort, I'm not the only person with this idea. Although I've traveled north, many Canadians flock south to gamble, and enjoy the resort. "Between Seattle and Canada, it's the biggest casino, with the best rates for hotel rooms with these amenities," said Cole Cassiano, a bartender at the casino's Blackfish Wild Salmon Grill and Bar. According to the casino's receptionists, at least 50 percent of the casino's guest come from Surrey, and Vancouver, British Columbia. 

With 370 rooms, at about $210 to $240 dollars on the weekends, the resort offers gamblers a new, luxurious place to break away from the hustle and bustle of the casino floor. "With the pool, spa, and the huge casino attached, you got a full day right here," said Cassiano.

The casino is decorated with cultural aspects of the Tulalip Tribes, and the natural surroundings of the Pacific Northwest's Puget Sound area. With everything from "Canoe's Cabaret," to the "Orca Ball Room," and the "Chinook Meeting Room," gamblers and guests are constantly reminded of the establishment's roots. 

Depending on how well the betting is going, high rollers can pay between $1,500 to $5,000 for any of the five unique specialty suites. The Pan and Grand Asian suites have a tropical theme, with traditional asian characters and decor. A technology suite is decked out with touch tone devices, TV's in the mirrors, and other state of the art gadgets. The player's suite comes stocked with every video game system, a pool table, pin ball machines, and dart boards to keep the activities going, and at 3,000 square feet, the Tulalip suite offers a vast amount of personal luxury. 

All specialty suites are located on the restricted floor 12 of the resort, and require special access, ensuring the utmost privacy for the most valued guests.