Sunday, February 22, 2009

You Gotta Know When To Fuel 'Em

I guess, if you think about it, the life of a gambler comes down to fuel. You need the fuel to win, the fuel to get over a loss, and you literally need fuel to commute back and forth from the isolated desert landscape surrounding Casino Del Sol.The Del Sol Marketplace and Chevron gas station, located on the premises of the casino, boasts a physical and metaphorical variety of fuel to assist the purposes and emotions of all gamblers, 24/7. "We get hundreds of people a day, we're constantly busy," said Lisa Wilder, a cashier at the sprawling on-site convenience store. 

Supplying customers with isles of assorted snacks, hot food, dairy products, coffee, energy drinks, and soda, it should be called the "Del Sol Compact Costco". Whether summoning the energy to continue making the bets, or stocking up for the ride home, the store offers enough carbohydrates, proteins and caffeine to satisfy anyone. Although edible favorites are excessively available for both customers and their pets, they are not the main attraction of the convenience store, "we sell a lot of beer and cigarettes," said Wilder. "usually it's by the cartons. We have regulars who buy six to 10 cartons at a time, once a month." 

With a drive thru window located on the side of the convenience store, between 6a.m. and 8 p.m. customers do not have to leave their car to acquire any of the hundreds of sold items. 

"We sell everything except beer through the window," said Elizabeth Esparza, the drive thru cashier. "Depending on how busy it is, I'll run in and grab anything. I've seen up to seven cars backed up." 

The Chevron station is owned and operated by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, and the cashiers are employees of the casino. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Sweetest Suite...

You're hitting on everything and nothing's over 21. Only the right cards are being dealt, the dice rolls in your favor, and the slots are matching up perfectly. Lady Luck has become your inseparable mistress. Simultaneously, the drinks have been pouring, dawn is approaching, and rapid eye movement isn't helping your earnings... So, what does a good gambler have to do to get a decent night's (day's) sleep around here!? 
With 148 rooms at an average rate of $150 to $175 dollars a night, the Desert Diamond Casino's hotel located at 7350 S Nogales Hwy, caters to anyone in search of catching some slumber to the lullaby of chiming slot machines. 

"It's our busiest season right now," said Celina Acevedo, the hotel's front desk supervisor. From Feb. through April, Tucson is home to the Tucson Gem Show, MLB Spring Training for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks, as well as the Tucson Rodeo.

"Some of the rodeo committee stays here," said Acevedo. The hotel has hosted members of the rodeo committee for the past two years, and offers special $95 dollar a night rates for committee members. 

Depending on the performance of gamblers, the casino's Desert Diamond Club will track the performances and offer free rooms to VIP guests. 

"It just depends on the player," said Acevedo. "I'll get a phone call from the Diamond Club and they'll let me know what kind of room I need to give them." It ranges from standard rooms, to executive suites. 
"The only people that really stay in the executive suites are performers," said Acevedo. At $1,500 a night, executive suites come with separate bathtubs and showers, rainfall shower heads, 32'' flat panel HDTV's, and premium linens. 

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Sol Guardians

The road to Casino Del Sol located at 5655 Valencia Road is a long,  straight commute surrounded by foothills, secluded homes, and barren desert. I'm driving there, thinking "Where is this place?" "Did I miss it? How could I miss it?" However, the confusion didn't last long. You can't miss it. It's a sprawling, out-of-place Pascua Yaqui Tribe establishment with the exterior of a Mexican villa and a backyard of natural desolation.  

The interior has a diverse flare, complete with two casino floors, a variety of restaurants, bars, a gift shop, and even an artificial alleyway decorated to simulate Chinatown.  

Then, I realize that I'm not supposed to feel like I even entered a building. The ceiling is backlit with a bright blue, lightly clouded sky, pumping artificial vitamin D into all the gamblers who aren't supposed to know what time it is, or how long they've been peddling away their savings. With classic rock and pop songs pumping through the speakers, flat screens broadcasting ESPN, and the choice of slots, blackjack, poker, and bingo, why would anyone want check their watch? 

It is an establishment to play games, take chances, and have fun. Daily shuttles from Nogales and Douglas escort players through the doors with the common goal to win some money. However, occasionally the entertainment is interrupted, and the casino has to depend on the security guards to maintain order. 

"Our job is to regulate. We are here to keep people safe at the casino, and be a deterrent to violence," said David Bojorquez, the lead security officer at the Casino Del Sol. 

The mixture of alcohol and finances can occasionally lead to physically violent scuffles between guests. "We have to deal with a lot of intoxicated people, especially on the weekends," said Bojorquez. "We're the first means of defense." 

Subduing assaulters is not the only responsibility security officers deal with on a regular basis, they have to constantly be aware of people who are trying to steal other people's money. 

"We deal with a lot of shady people," said Bojorquez. 

Although these problems arise, the casino remains a place where most come to enjoy themselves and refrain from causing problems. 

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Desert Diamond Diversity

From the outside appearance, the Desert Diamond Casino at 1100 W. Pima Mine Road looks like a plastic pastel Aztec foundation, commercializing the culture and history of the Tohono O'odham Nation to everyone passing by. Due to the outside appearance, I expected the inside of the casino would convey the same message, showcasing Mexican and tribal heritage, educating the average gambler as they try to fatten their wallets. To my surprise, it seems no one wants a cultural history lesson here, as the gamblers mindlessly shove quarters and dollar bills into a powerhouse of American popular culture, including "Wheel of Fortune," "Starwars," and "eBay" themed slot machines.

So what's the deal? Where's the pride? Have we all just abandoned our heritage for the all mighty buck? Maybe the Desert Diamond Casino has a different reason. Perhaps, no lesson in culture or history is given, because everyone already knows it.

"It seems to me that the majority of players are Mexican," said Debra Johnson, the casino's head manager on duty.

However, the culture isn't advertised through the fluorescent advertisement of their restaurants, bars or venues. Instead, the effort to maintain cultural elements in the casino can be seen through Saturday night mariachi music, and Mexican food served all day on Thursdays. The casino's cliental also showcase their own examples of the surrounding diversity by wearing cowboy hats, and bolo-ties. 
"A lot of people from Nogales come to play," said Andrea Enciso, a waitress at the casino's buffet.

As an employee at the casino it is encouraged to be bilingual, and conversing in Spanish is a significant component of each workday, said Enciso. "In one shift I'll get fifteen Spanish speaking tables," said Enciso.

All game play is operated in English, and the casino does not especially cater to Spanish speaking individuals, but when a player does not speak English then a bilingual employee will be recruited to assist the player in Spanish, said Johnson.