Gila River Indian community opens casino south of Chandler


The Gila River Indian community is betting its fourth casino, which paved the way just south of Chandler on Monday, will help generate revenue and create more than 650 new jobs.

The tribe announced the new casino project this summer after Native American tribes in Arizona reached a five-year negotiation and signed a modified tribal pact with the state.

The deal allowed casino extensions and tribes to operate thousands of new slot machines, open at least four new casinos, and allow betting on new table games.

The Indian community of Gila River already operates the Wild Horse Pass and Lone Butte casinos in Chandler as well as Vee Quiva in the Phoenix community of Laveen.

Now the tribe’s fourth casino, named Santan Mountain for its view from the site, is slated to open in 18 to 24 months just south of Loop 202 in Chandler, near the southeast corner of Gilbert Road and Hunt Highway.

Gila River Indian Community Governor Stephen Roe Lewis told The Arizona Republic he expects the $ 150 million project to help boost economic recovery from the impact of the COVID-19, which has deeply affected Native Americans.

“I know (the pandemic) has been difficult for all of us. It has been difficult for the community. It has been difficult for our surrounding communities, as well as in cities and towns across the state,” Lewis said. “That’s why I think we’re so proud to be able to be a part of the rebuilding, the recovery efforts.”

Along with its fourth casino, the tribe will also invest $ 143 million in an expansion project at Wild Horse Pass later this year, which will bring 205 new rooms, meeting space, two swimming pools, and a rooftop restaurant and lounge. to the property.

It is also possible that another newly licensed casino in the Phoenix metro area will be built by the Tohono O’odham Nation near Loop 303 and Northern Parkway in the West Valley.

Gila River Indian Community Governor Stephen Roe Lewis speaking at the October 18, 2021 groundbreaking ceremony for the tribe's fourth casino, Santan Mountain.  He said he expects the $ 150 million project to help boost economic recovery after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has deeply affected Native Americans.

What Santan Mountain Casino will bring

Santan Mountain will have over 850 slot machines and table games, such as mini-baccarat, craps and roulette. It will include a high limit gaming lounge as well as sports betting opportunities.

A bar in the center of the lounge will provide entertainment options and different dining areas.

Paul Steelman, the architect behind the project, has designed casinos in Las Vegas and around the world. He said he took inspiration from the Sonoran desert landscape of the 160-acre site, which led him to create a unique design.

He said that unlike other casinos, which are interior-oriented and are developed as “black boxes” in an attempt to get people to a different time and place, the Santan Mountain project will connect the exterior landscape from site to interior space.

“This would be the first casino to have windows. So it’s actually going to enjoy the other view, the air,” Steelman said. “You will actually be able to go out and eat and have opportunities to eat and drink in the open air in this building.”

Santan Mountain’s design will feature saguaro-themed carpet, cascading natural light from circular skylights and bubble glass, and sunset and sunrise-inspired colors, casino officials said.

Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 480-267-4703. Follow her on Twitter @renataclo.

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