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. 

Sunday, March 8, 2009

I'd Tell Ya, But I'd Have Tequila

As we all approach the "spring break" time of year, the sun comes out, the temperature soars, and sometimes the day isn't complete without some salt, a lime, and a well-known Mexican concoction. You love it, hate it, get peer pressured into it... It's unavoidable, it's coming, welcome to the world of tequila. 

The Casino Del Sol makes sure not to stray way from this philosophy, housing it's own Mexican restaurant, The Tequila Factory. With three shelves full of over 100 different tequilas, the Tequila Factory attracts everyone from the average customer with a thirst for Patron Silver , to the obscure individual hunting for a rare taste of imported liquid gold. 

The restaurant's shelf stocks everything from cheap Jose Cuervo to a bottle of Gran Patron, which charges high rollers $60 dollars a shot (1.5 ounces)... You might want to sip on that one... 
Unusual bottles of Asombrosoand Oro Azul tequilas come in unique shapes and artistic designs. A variety of the liquor is bottled in the form of worms, ovals, and other visually appealing shapes that appear more as decorative pieces than containers. The shelf also includesMonte Alban mezcal, which includes the infamous worm floating at the bottom of the bottle. Apparently, ingesting the worm can cause hallucinations, and if you're brave enough to test out the rumors, the customer who orders the last shot gets the worm at the Tequila Factory. 

Tony Davis, the manager of the Tequila Factory, imports the rare bottles from distributors and other suppliers, offering a wide selection of tequila in an environment surrounded with customers in need of creatively drowning sorrows and celebrating earnings. 
Of course, the Tequila Factory's shelves of liquor are connected to a colorful Mexican restaurant. The menu consists of everything from everyday fish tacos to a $9.95 prime rib dinner on Tuesdays, and an $8.95 all-you-can-eat Fiesta Bar. A Sunday brunch consists of seafood and desserts, and margaritas are priced down during happy hour from 4 - 8p.m.
The restaurant is most popular on Fridays and Saturdays, but depending on the casino's events, you might want to make reservations. "Before and after concerts, there's a line out the door," said Felizcita Alvarez, the Tequila Factory supervisor. 

And for the gamblers who wear their hearts on their sleeves out there, "Valentines Day was full because we had a buffet and special items," said Alvarez. But incase the old lady doesn't appreciate a Mexican buffet at a casino on the year's most romantic night, don't forget there's something to help with the V-Day loneliness... Three whole shelves of it. 

If anyone would like to see some of my classmates showing how it's done, and giving some other great tequila information, please check out their Tequila Tour 2009 Pretty awesome!!  

Monday, March 2, 2009

All You Can Eat King Crab Anyone?

What does the person betting chump change at the penny slots, and the person who just hit on 15 with $2 thousand dollars on the table have in common? They both eventually have to eat. 

The Desert Diamond Casino might empty your wallet, but there's no gambling with your appetite. 

The Desert Diamond Casino offers a number of food options for gamblers who desire to have
 food in one hand while yanking the lever of a slot machine with the other. Located right on the casino floor, The Desert Diamond Grill serves assorted appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, pizza, ice cream, cake, and breakfast options 24/7. 

"We were even here on Christmas," said Jane Martinez, who has been operating the cash register at the grill for two years. 

Casino guests are able to carry the food back to the slot machines or tables with them in order to ensure that the necessity to eat won't slow down any game play. 

Open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. everyday, the casino offers an eastern variation, at the Desert Wok, which dishes up chinese food in a hurry. 

Of course, the Desert Diamond Casino wouldn't be complete without the staple-point to any gambling establishment; the buffet. 

The Desert Diamond Buffet, open from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. - 9 p.m., charges $8.85 for lunch, and $10.85 for an all you can eat dinner. Not unlike an elementary school cafeteria, certain food is served on different days. Tuesday, "pasta," Wednesday, "barbecue," Thursday, "South of the Border," and for $16.95 on Monday nights, a "Seafood Special" baits and hooks the shellfish enthusiasts. 

The casino also knows how to class it up a little bit. From 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., hotel guests and local gamblers file into the new Desert Diamond Steakhouse, which just opened last year. 

"We suggest making reservations," said Marisa Reynolds, the Steakhouse supervisor. "This weekend we had people come in from the rodeo, the golf tournament, all over." 

With affordable entrees like a $23 dollar filet mignon, and $22.95 dollar 16 oz prime rib, the steak house allows hotel guests to enjoy a well reviewed dinner 20-feet away from the opportunity to win back your tab. 

From cereal and cigarettes to 22 oz porterhouses, you might leave broke but probably not hungry.