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$180M price tag for Gila River rebrand, expansion

The unveiling of Gila River Resorts & Casinos in the Phoenix valley featured Ludacris, a drone show and dining at the new rooftop steakhouse

Carina Dominguez
Indian Country Today

GILA RIVER INDIAN COMMUNITY — The Gila River Indian Community is celebrating an expansion and rebranding across the tribe’s gaming enterprises along the southern edge of the Phoenix Valley.

“We're really excited to share and unveil what we've been working on for the last two years,” Kenneth Manuel, CEO of Gila River Resorts & Casinos, said.

Gila River Resorts & Casinos invested $180 million in renovations at all three of its gaming properties, Wild Horse Pass, Lone Butte and Vee Quiva. The tribe has a fourth casino opening in 2023 called Santan Mountain.

Gila River Indian Community broke ground on Santan Mountain, the tribe's 4th casino, on Oct. 18, 2021.

The tribe is aiming to offer gamblers an “elevated guest experience comparable to Las Vegas.”

“From our new Las Vegas-style live table games, exciting nightlife, and the addition of our BetMGM Sportsbooks to new fine dining options, spacious rooms, and a variety of serene and secluded pools, Gila River Resorts & Casinos provides guests with a casino resort experience like no other,” Manuel said.

When Arizona tribes started re-negotiating a gaming compact with the state – which included other Phoenix area tribes like the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community, Tohono O’odham Nation and the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation – Gila River started investing into its gaming floors.

“We had a little bit of a head start,” Manuel said.

Live table games are offered like craps, roulette and baccarat at all three properties.

“We increased the wager limits,” Manuel said. “A lot of our guests have responded and said that they really don't need to go to Las Vegas because it is here in the valley.”

The new Sunrise tower connects to the Sunset tower at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, AZ. The Gila River Indian Community broke ground on the 11-story tower in August 2020. (Photo courtesy of Gila River Resorts & Casinos)

Gila River broke ground on the expansion project in August 2020, the first since the property opened in 2009.

The property introduced the brand new 11-story Sunrise tower which features 205 new guest rooms.

It rises 150 feet above the desert landscape with a rooftop restaurant perched on top – Prime, A Shula’s Steak House.

An elegant chandelier greets hotel guests in the lobby and relaxation awaits at the two new pools.

The $180M price tag for the Gila River rebrand and expansion included a brand new chandelier, displayed above the horse statue in the Wild Horse Pass hotel lobby. (Photo courtesy of Gila River Resorts & Casinos)

A more exciting setting can be found at the BetMGM sportsbook.

“What's really unique about this relationship is that it's a three way relationship between BetMGM, Gila River Resorts & Casinos and the Arizona Cardinals,” Manuel said. “So their brand is really being spread out through the state of Arizona.”

The two-day celebration got underway with a sold-out Ludacris concert at Wild Horse Pass on Friday.

A drone show kicked-off the festivities on Saturday evening before the grand opening of the rooftop restaurant, Prime, A Shula’s Steak House.

“I'm so proud of the team that I have here at Gila River and just thankful for the support that we get from our tribal leadership,” Manuel said. “It's a great relationship and I love what we're doing here together.”

Nightlife was one of the considerations when the rebrand was planned. Prime becomes more lounge-like when it transitions to 11ven at Prime with a live DJ.

“I'm looking forward to the future of what gaming does for not only all the tribes but for the state as well because I know that the state benefits from the revenues that are generated,” Manuel said.

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