In 2011, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe bought the Tucson 5 Drive-in. Now, the tribe wants to turn the old theater into the newest Arizona casino.
Being the closest to downtown Tucson, the new casino could become Tuscon’s gambling hub. And with the Arizona sports betting industry booming, a casino in a central location could have grander implications.
Biden OKs new Tuscon casino
President Joe Biden signed the Old Pascua Community Land Acquisition Act into law on Dec. 27, which gives the Pascua Yaqui tribe the green light to build the Tucson casino. The act turns the 40-acre plot into sovereign land.
Thanks to the amended Tribal-State Gaming Compact, the Pascua Yaqui can add one more casino to its arsenal.
In 2019, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe came to an agreement with the city of Tucson. Essentially, the agreement said that the tribe would make payments “in lieu of tax” that was “for almost all currently predicted uses at the site.” The specific transaction privilege taxes would come based on revenue. In turn, Tucson would continue to provide services like law enforcement, trash/recycling and other basics.
Tuscon casino could give boost area businesses
Amy Prillamm manages Blessed Grounds Coffee Shop, which is near the proposed casino location. In an interview with KGUN, she thinks a casino would only help the other local shops in the area. Prillaman told KGUN:
“We are a major family here and we just love on the community in general. And so I think any opportunity that we get to expand our customer base is another opportunity to one, impact the life to impact the community of Tucson but also to positively impact that casino as well. So, I see it as a partnership in the making and maybe something beautiful to happen soon.”
Tucson metro chamber president and CEO Michael Guymon shares a similar sentiment. Guymon thinks an operation as big as the proposed casino could help attract other businesses — not just those in the gambling arena — to the area. Those new businesses could help patch up dormant land in the area.
“You bring back activity to a big property like that, and like you just talked about, there are employees but there’s also a lot of individuals driving into that area that had historically not driven into that area. Well, I think some property owners and some businesses are going to recognize that and they’re going to then invest and put new businesses in that area.”
What other AZ casinos do the Pascua Yaqui operate?
This new casino would be the tribe’s third and Tucson’s fifth.
As of now, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe owns and operates the Casino del Sol Resort, off of West Valencia Road. It also runs the Casino of the Sun, off of South Camino de Oeste.
Another tribe operates two other casinos in the Tucson area, too. The Tohono O’odham Nation runs the Desert Diamond Casino off Pima Mine Road and I-19. It also owns the Desert Diamond Casino & hotel off South Nogales Highway.