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Tribes may add more slot machines as population grows

Tucson, Arizona (AP) 3-08

The number of slot machines allowed inside tribal casinos is growing along with Arizona’s population.

Arizona’s gaming tribes may add a total of 2,908 slot machines to their casinos this year under a formula that allows them to increase slots and blackjack tables every five years at the same rate that the state population increases.

The additional slot machines represent a 19 percent increase.

The largest slot increases are going to the Tohono O’odham Nation and Gila River Indian Communities. They’re each receiving 266 more machines.

At the two Desert Diamond casinos near Tucson, the Tohono O’odham have 1,815 machines. The Desert Diamond on Nogales Highway has the most machines among Arizona casinos, with 1,089 slots, according to state Gaming department statistics.

For its Casino Arizona properties, the Salt River-Pima Indian Community will get another 133 slot machines. “We are adding as many slot machines as we can,” said Russ Burbank, senior vice president for operations at Casino Arizona.

The casino is eligible to operate a total of 1,663 machines, up from 1,530, at two casinos outside Scottsdale.

In February, Casino Arizona added 36 slots in a new room at its casino at Indian Bend Road and Loop 101, some of which are $25 high-limit machines.

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe has 1,349 slots at its Casino del Sol and Casino of the Sun.

Tribal officials say they are not in as much of a rush to add the 171 new slots allotted to the tribe.

“We’ll be adding machines to Casino del Sol but not immediately,” said Wendell Long, chief executive at Pascua Yaqui Gaming Enterprise Division.

Long said not all 171 machines will be added at once and he wouldn’t say how many will be added initially.

Every five years, the Arizona Department of Gaming calculates the number of slot machines and card tables that tribes are allowed using a population-based formula. Most tribes became eligible for the increases Feb. 5, the five-year anniversary of the date they signed compacts with the state.

By September, all tribes will be eligible to increase the numbers of slot machines and card tables in their casinos, said Seena Simon, policy and communications manager for the Department of Gaming.

That means tribes are authorized to have a total of 18,158 slot machines, up 19.1 percent, from 15,250; and 3,318 tables for games such as blackjack, up 19.6 percent, from 2,775.

Last fiscal year, casinos in Arizona generated $1.94 billion, excluding revenue from restaurants, gift shops and other related businesses.

 

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