From the West Valley to the East Valley and everywhere in between, roll the dice on our regionalized guide to Valley casinos. Bonus: Pro tips for big payouts.
With December room rates starting at $120/night, Vee Quiva Hotel & Casino (playatgila.com) in Laveen affords guests plenty of leeway in their gaming budget. And what a property it is: Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired design with the best casino pool west of the I-17, and a spacious gaming floor that includes 20 oversized table games, including blackjack, pai gow and 3-card poker. If old-school Texas Hold ‘Em is your game, check with Desert Diamond West Valley Casino (ddcaz.com) in Peoria, a recently expanded property that includes the only casino poker room in the West Valley (closed for COVID as this issue went to press).
Wild Card Rec: Looking for a unique gift for the sports super-fan in your life? Vee Quiva offers themed D-backs, Coyotes and Cardinals suites in its 90-key hotel.
What else can you say about Talking Stick Resort (talkingstickresort.com)? The 15-story mini-city is the Valley’s premier Vegas-style gaming resort, even with its dual live-entertainment venues temporarily closed due to the pandemic. It also gets our vote for having the Valley’s most unique casino restaurant: Ocean Trail, an Asian-Creole fusion restaurant currently offering grab n’ go dining. For a pure gaming experience, some Valley slot- and poker-fans prefer Talking Stick’s sister property: Casino Arizona (casinoarizona.com), located just a few miles down the Pima Freeway-101. With the CAZ Sports Bar and Arizona’s biggest poker room – not to mention 900 slot machines and numerous table games – it’s a gaming monster.
Wild Card Rec: One amenity that remains proudly open during the pandemic: Talking Stick Golf Club, named one of America’s best casino courses by Golfweek.
East Valley/South Phoenix
Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino (wildhorsepass.com) in Chandler is already the most stylish, amenity-laden gaming complex in the south Valley – and it’s only going to get better with a $143 million expansion that will add a second guest-room tower with 205 rooms, an oasis-style pool, a rooftop restaurant and a myriad of other lux diversions, all due in fall 2021. In the meantime, the Gila River tribal property has everything you want and need in a Vegas-inspired gaming retreat, including the Whirlwind Golf Club, nearby outlet shopping and a stacked selection of restaurants, including Kai, believed by many to be Arizona’s best fine-dining restaurant.
Wild Card Rec: Saddle up at Koli Equestrian Center and enjoy unimpeded views of the Sierra Estrella Mountains atop your own steed on a guided ride. No other casino in Arizona offers anything quite like it.
Pro Tips for Beginners
Lean into games with little or no house edge. According to gambling.com, the Top 10 includes single-deck blackjack (the lowest house edge overall), craps, 3-card poker, video poker and pia gow poker.
Establish a loss ceiling. In other words, predetermine how much you’re willing to lose. Avoid making large bets, and do enough research on a given game to have a strategy before laying your first bet.
Take advantage of comps and giveaways. Find out what kind of programs the casino is running at the help desk; get a player’s club card if possible, to maximize your points.
Arizona Casino Fast Facts
The 240,000-square-foot Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale.
Most Slot Machines:
Harrah’s Ak-Chin in Maricopa boasts 1,135 gaming machines.
Highest Poker Limits:
The Arena Poker Room at Talking Stick Resort.
Indeterminate. But Desert Diamond was the only casino in Arizona to appear in Strictly Slots magazine’s “Certified Loose Slot” program.