Desert Diamond Casino West Valley

Desert Diamond Casino West Valley launched Feb. 19. It didn’t take long for the new blackjack and poker tables and slot machines to be buzzing, as the casino filled to capacity on opening night. 

The Desert Diamond Casino West Valley opening was a full house, actually and figuratively.

The Las Vegas-style casino was literally a full house, as the crowd on opening night filled the sprawling casino on the Feb. 19 opening night.

“We apologize for the inconvenience, however, we’ve reached the maximum allowed capacity for the evening and can no longer allow any more vehicles,”  the casino tweeted, less than three hours after opening.

The full house was also symbolic, as the casino has poker tables as well as blackjack. Additionally, 1,100 slot machines were brought over from the temporary casino, which the Tohono O’odham Nation opened at the end of 2015.

Before the opening, the Nation had a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“This historic day is one our entire Nation has been looking forward to for many years,” said Ned Norris, Jr, chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation. “We are creating a brighter future for the Tohono O’odham, the West Valley and Arizona. The Nation is grateful for the incredible support the project has received from the community, and we will continue working with our partners to create even greater opportunity for us all.”

Snug between Glendale (it uses a Glendale address) and Peoria, the 1.2-million-square-foot facility is located on 54 acres of reservation land at 9431 W. Northern Avenue.

Others from the Tohono O’odham Nation spoke after a flag presentation and a traditional blessing prayer was presented to the crowd and the workers at the casino.

“We’re so excited to welcome our guests to this fantastic new facility. Our construction team and all of our team members have done great work preparing for this evening, and we invite everyone to visit this beautiful new casino. From exciting games to great food, we have everything you need for an unforgettable experience,” said Rudy Prieto, Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise CEO.

Thursday afternoon, the massive gaming house was again buzzing with activity. There were lines for some slot machines and nearly all the 48 blackjack tables were filled. The poker room was only about half-filled, with some of the tables empty.

Two musicians provided background music at each end of the casino, which is large enough the music didn’t overlap.

Compared to the modest but functional temporary casino, the permanent Desert Diamond Casino West Valley is a glammy leap forward. Unassuming from the outside, the inside of the casino offers a full-scale sensory stimulation, with flashing lights and a cacophony of slot-machine sounds.

It could be said the Tohono O’odham Nation is $400 million in the hole, as this is the casino construction cost.

But the odds say the Nation will be raking in winnings at the new place.

The Arizona Department of Gaming (ADG) announced last week the state’s 24 casinos Class  III made $29 million in contributions to the Arizona Benefits Fund in the second quarter of fiscal year 2020. This amount, which is 1 to 8% of gross gaming revenues,  is an 8% increase compared to same quarter of the previous year.

This was the 11th consecutive quarterly increase, said Ted Vogt, director of the Arizona Department of Gaming.

The Arizona Benefits Fund goes to education, emergency services, tourism, wildlife conservation and problem gambling funds.  

Eric Newman contributed to this story.