Some Arizona casinos now have table games like roulette and craps
Arizona gamblers are now playing craps, roulette and baccarat at Phoenix-area casinos following updates to tribal casino agreements with the state this spring.
Previously, only card games such as blackjack and poker were available in Arizona's Native American casinos.
But Arizona tribes agreed to support off-reservation sports betting, which should kick off in September, in exchange for new table games and sportsbooks of their own.
Wild Horse Pass near Chandler, run by the Gila River Indian Community, quietly launched all three new games on July 30, while Harrah's Ak-Chin Hotel and Casino near Maricopa started craps and baccarat on July 29.
The new tribal compact in Arizona also allows casinos to offer pai gow, a domino game, and sic bo, a dice game.
Wild Horse Pass also opened a new high-limit area with six mini-baccarat tables, six blackjack tables and one roulette wheel.
The casino, one of three (and soon to be four) run by the tribe, added 15 new table games and more slots and raised betting limits.
"All the games have been open all week and been performing unbelievably," Gila River’s Chief Operations Officer Richard Strafella said Wednesday.
"The tables are doing unbelievably well. Right now at this moment, I have cameras in my office, we have two full craps tables and two full roulette wheels going and two full baccarat tables, on a Wednesday afternoon."
Strafella said after some patrons waited two hours for the craps game to open the previous Friday, the first roll was a winning seven. But gamblers on the first roulette spin were less fortunate — green zero. (Not the most popular bet, zeroes are commonly considered unlucky. They also give the house its edge in the game.)
The tribe's other two casinos, Lone Butte and Vee Quiva, will open roulette, baccarat and craps on Aug. 27, Strafella said.
"We are training the labor for those properties now," he said.
Wild Horse Pass now has five roulette tables, three craps tables and seven baccarat tables, with some in the new high-limit area, where it also moved the high-limit blackjack tables, Strafella said.
Months of preparation for new games
The casino months ago began ordering the new tables, having them certified, setting up a training area, recruiting dealers from Las Vegas, New Mexico and even Wisconsin, and training them, along with security staff and pit bosses, to monitor the new games.
The roulette wheels come from the United Kingdom, Strafella said, and involve a 16-week waiting period.
"It is a major undertaking. It does take a lot of time and preparation," he said, adding that the waiting period is likely why other casinos haven't yet launched roulette.
The casino made room for the additions by moving a poker room to another property, Lone Butte casino.
The casino also hired a new host to work with high-limit gamblers and added an Asian buffet and a cashier cage in the high-limit area, Strafella said.
"It’s a very, very special room that was designed specifically for the Asian players that truly love the game of baccarat, but for the domestics as well for blackjack and roulette," he said.
No bet under $25 is allowed at any of the tables in the high-limit area, and the maximum bets are higher than those on the larger casino floor. Strafella said that while the state limit is $100,000 a hand, the maximum bet on blackjack in the high-limit area is $2,500, compared with $1,500 on the regular casino floor.
Arizona allows for maximum bets of $100,000 on blackjack, craps, roulette and baccarat.
Harrah's Ak-Chin has one craps table and one baccarat table.
“The addition of craps and baccarat to our casino floor is exciting for our valued customers,” said Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino Senior Vice President and General Manager Michael Kintner. “These, along with blackjack and poker, bring a full gaming experience to Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino.”
Other casinos are preparing for new games.
"Testing of our new table games are underway with plans to go live as soon as they are ready," said Treena Parvello, director of government and publication relations for Desert Diamond Casinos, which has a West Valley property.
“Desert Diamond Casinos is undertaking massive expansions at all of its facilities statewide. At Desert Diamond Casino West Valley, we will unveil nearly 150 new gaming machines in the coming days, including more than a dozen games that will only be found in our casinos in Arizona.”