In the heart of Tucson, lies Casino Del Sol, and at the heart of Casino Del Sol, is the Pascua Yaqui Tribe; a native group that has been rooted in Arizona for centuries. “There are five districts within the community where our tribal members live. One is based outside of Phoenix, and the other four are in Tucson,” shares Enrique Alcantar.
Enrique, a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, started off as an Executive Sous Chef at Casino Del Sol, helping to train employees to meet high industry standards. He now serves as the Executive Director of Food & Beverage.
Casino Del Sol began as a bingo hall shortly after Arizona regulations legalized gambling. What started in a tent, soon became a bricks-and-mortar establishment, that evolved into the casino as it is today. As a result, the development of the Pascua Yaqui community followed suit. “The Tribe was quickly able to find the revenue to develop the infrastructure that built a fire and police department and everything ewlse necessary to operate as a federally recognized tribe,” says Enrique.
The casino and resort were built in three phases. The process began with the gaming floor, which hosted a few food outlets, and from there, the hotel expanded to include a banquet and convention space. Nine years later, a second tower was built. “We have approximately 215 rooms, 11 venues, and 16 different restaurants,” says Enrique. “There’s a fusion of Japanese and Chinese, called Ume, and Bellissimo, a northern Italian restaurant, serving a selection of fresh pastas. There are three satellite grab-and-goes and a donut bar, where the pastry team makes all of the confectionary items. My favorite is the coffee shop. We procure our coffee beans from tribes around our area. Then we have a sandwich shop and street deli, where we offer fresh breads and pizzas. Finally, we have our flagship restaurant, the PY Steakhouse. Named after our Tribe, it continues to win the Wine Spectator award, with a lot of locally sourced food. Even within catering, there are a couple of menus offering food sourced within 200 miles of our location,” explains Enrique.
Ava Amphitheater, the Casino’s concert venue, seats 5000 and provides green rooms for performing artists. “Lastly,” he continues, “we operate a 24/7 service station, which is about half a mile from the casino.”
Winning service According to Enrique, what makes Casino Del Sol unique is the pride that the Tribal members and employees have gained from working there. “I think what we offer is among the best in town. The Casino continues to win accolades for our services, from the hotel and the grounds, to the golf course and concert venue. Our executive chef has won recognition as Chef of the Year, and I believe that the difference comes down to our employees, our training, and how we instill pride in our employees to go above and beyond for our visitors.”
Gambling laws for tribe-owned states and reservations are slightly different to other states, which is why Casino Del Sol has incorporated the best practices to offer a safe and fun experience. “We are a little more restricted in what we can offer to the public. We are regulated by the state when it comes to the games that are permitted inside our facilities. For example, in Oklahoma, every type of gaming facility is regulated by different standards, which is why we do our best to mirror the image of Vegas,” he says.
Enrique explains that Casino Del Sol is oriented around advocating for the enrichment of the Pascua Yaqui community. The Tribe is doing an impressive amount of work with the University of Arizona to create a micro-campus on the reservations for tribal members to get a degree. “We also partner with Pima Community College to help our employees in the food and beverage department and other areas in the casino attain qualifications. In addition to a healthcare and dental offering, we recently opened our doors for long-term and elderly care for senior tribe members, which was very exciting,” shares Enrique.
A foundation for the future
The Tribe cares for its members and wants to build a future for younger generations, by providing a stable foundation for young people to work at the casino or in one of the departments within the Tribe. “Tribal members have the option to start a family and stay on the reservation if they so choose,” Enrique explains. “We also offer assistance for those looking to leave and live in town as an alternative.”
Casino Del Sol strives to be the best in the state. For Enrique, this includes training and developing staff members. “We need to look to the future. My job is to help the team look beyond today to understand the lasting impact their work can have. We believe in laying strong foundations to pave the path to a successful future, which means doing today’s job well. I can’t really guarantee that in three years we are going to be number one, but, for me, the aim is to have a single goal and message for all of us to work towards,” concludes Enrique.