Native American casinos in New Mexico offer gaming, dining and entertainment options for tour groups
Tour organizers looking for ways to spice up a New Mexico itinerary can choose from 26 Native American casinos scattered across the state. Besides getting a chance to strike it rich at the slot machines or roulette wheel, tour members enjoy casinos’ lavish buffets, fine dining restaurants and opportunities to shop for exquisite art and handicrafts. Some casinos on Indian pueblo land are full-fledged resorts with golf courses and hotel rooms.
In many cases these gaming establishments are just a hop, skip and jump from the tribe’s adobe village, where visitors can take guided walks, meet the people, perhaps see a ceremonial dance and buy from vendors offering everything from pottery to fry bread.
Albuquerque’s Isleta Resort & Casino, formerly a Hard Rock property, is an Isleta Pueblo enterprise dominated by the glass tower of its 201-room hotel. Besides table games, bingo and more than 1,600 slots, diversions include indoor and outdoor pools, bowling, a full-service spa and three nine-hole golf courses set around three lakes. The concert lineup for the resort’s 15,000-seat amphitheater this year includes big-name acts like Rascal Flatts, Scott McCreery, Tim McGraw, Darius Rucker and Florida Georgia Line.
On Sandia Pueblo, just five miles north of Albuquerque, Sandia Resort & Casino overlooks the Sandia Mountains. It has more than 2,000 slot and video poker machines and the largest poker room in the state. Built in the Pueblo architectural style, the resort boasts 228 rooms in a seven-story tower, a full-service spa and a 7,772-yard, par-72, 18-hole golf course with waterfalls, grassy knolls and lush native landscapes (the longest golf course in New Mexico). Top musical acts perform under the stars in the 4,000-seat amphitheater. Recent headliners have included Alabama, James Taylor, Reba McEntire, Smokey Robinson, Natalie Cole and Ringo Starr.
On Santa Ana Pueblo land 15 miles north of Albuquerque, Santa Ana Star Casino opened in 1993 as New Mexico’s Native American casino. It offers 1,400 slots, 25 table games, live-action poker and video poker. Guests also enjoy the state-of-the-art bowling center and The Stage night club, which features DJ selections on weekends and the area’s only regular standup comedy show every Thursday. Nearby on pueblo land are the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa, the links-style, 27-hole Santa Ana Golf Course and 18-hole Twin Warriors Golf Course (built around 20 ancient cultural sites).
In Northwestern New Mexico, about an hour from Albuquerque, Acoma Pueblo, known as Sky City, is one of the Southwest’s most spectacular Native American sites. Tours of the ancient settlement, perched atop a mesa high above the valley floor, shed light on the longest continuously occupied community in the United States, which dates back to the 11th century. The Acomas’ Sky City Hotel & Casino is located near Grants, about 15 miles west of the pueblo. The 134-room hotel has a seasonal heated pool and hot tub. The casino offers bingo, table games and some 640 slot and video poker machines.
Taos Pueblo, located on a high desert mesa in north-central New Mexico, is best known for the multi-storied adobe buildings that have been continuously inhabited for more than 1,000 years. The pueblo’s small, friendly Taos Mountain Casino (with 200 slots) is New Mexico’s only 100 percent smoke-free casino. The photogenic town of Taos, one of the Southwest’s top art centers, abounds with museums, galleries and crafts shops.
Tesque Pueblo’s Camel Rock Casino, with over 500 slot and video poker machines, is convenient for visitors staying in Santa Fe. Located 10 miles north of the city in the foothills of the Sangre Cristo Mountains, the pueblo’s entrance is just south of Camel Rock, a sandstone formation in the shape of a camel.
Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino sits on a grassy slope above a mountain lake on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation, near Ruidoso. One of New Mexico’s most elegant resorts, it features 273 rooms, most with views of Sierra Blanca, the towering 12,000-foot peak in the Sacramento Mountains of the Southern Rockies. Besides a casino with 830 slot and video poker machines, a poker room and 37 table games, the resort offers a heated indoor pool and hot tubs, fishing and boating, horseback riding, a sporting clay range and a par-72, 18-hole championship golf course nestled under tall pines. Headline entertainment has included Willie Nelson, the Beach Boys and Charlie Pride.