GRRC hosts Grand Opening Ceremony for New Santan Mountain Casino
July 7, 2023
Gila River Indian News
Gila River Resorts & Casinos Santan Mountain, the tribe’s fourth casino in Arizona, invited Community members to an exclusive pre-opening and ribbon cutting from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on June 17.
Many Community members waited outside for the doors to open. Once they entered and were led to the Silverleaf Ballroom, the first 1,000 received a free State 48 Santan Casino T-shirt. Five hundred more shirts were ordered to be distributed to those who didn’t get one at a later date.
Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis, Lt. Gov. Monica Antone, council members from all seven districts and executive leaders and employees of the Gila River Resorts & Casinos attended the event, which included a blessing from former Lt. Gov. Robert Stone, speeches from tribal leaders and cultural performances by tribal members.
After the blessing, Gov. Lewis said, “We’ve raised the bar at Santan Mountain Casino. It’s beautiful, it’s open and it’s bright.”
Located on the outskirts of District 4, the casino entrance boasts large windows that provide stunning views of the surrounding desert and Santan Mountain. Inside, the decor is dominated by a white color scheme, creating a light and airy atmosphere.
Gov. Lewis also thanked elders and Community members for their support of the casino, which is expected to bring economic revenue for the Community.
Lt. Gov. Antone in her speech also mentioned the economic advantages of the new casino and how it will benefit tribal housing, public safety and more.
“It’s beautiful that our Community can open the doors to such a great opportunity, to an economic engine,” she said. “This is your casino, this is our casino, this is Gila River strong… I am looking forward to the next few days as the revenue comes back to our people.”
Later in the program, the Keli Akimel O’otham and a Pee Posh Bird Singing group performed traditional songs and dances for the audience. The lead voice of the bird singers, Angel Ortiz, District 7, commented that the casino to him is a great promise to the Community that will enhance resources. He also mentioned that his favorite feature of the casino was the artwork on the walls, which was created by Community members. Work by Community artists is on display throughout the building, including seven paintings from each of the seven districts.
After the performances at 10:30 a.m., Community members gathered in the hallway outside of the ballroom for the ceremonial ribbon cutting. Lt. Gov. Antone and Gov. Lewis were handed $20 bills, which they slid into the nearest slot machine to mark that the Santan Mountain Casino was open for official business.
Afterward, the Community cheered and dispersed into the 160,000-square-foot casino, which holds more than 800 slot machines, 15 blackjack tables, three roulette tables—including the first white roulette wheel in the country—three poker card tables, two craps tables three Ultimate Texas Hold’em tables, mini baccarat and electronic table games.
Gila River Resorts & Casinos Santan Mountain also boasts the largest sportsbook in Arizona at 7,000 square feet, which is sponsored by Bet MGM and includes the Upper Deck Deli and a bar featuring giant-screen TVs.
Other features include a main bar and lounge area called “The Hive;” the Premia bar in the high limit room; a food court with Rizzo’s pizza and Italian, Mein Dish Asian cuisine, Taste Kitchen and a Starbucks; and the “upscale but approachable” restaurant Honey and Vine, which uses ingredients grown in the Community and includes an outdoor patio and a walk-up coffee bar.
Also, the high-limit area has a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that create an indoor/outdoor vibe and opens to the gardens and patio for lounging. At the Community pre-opening, restaurants handed out samples of their cuisine and Eagleheart and Gertie n’ the T.O. Boyz provided live music.
“A lot of people have been waiting for this event to happen,” said Alta Hymer, Community elder from District 4. “I think it’s a beautiful place, especially the art that comes from Community members.”
After the Community pre-opening wrapped up, the casino held a ribbon cutting for the general public at 1:30 p.m. It has been open for business since, and an official grand opening was held on June 30 and July 1 with sold-out concerts by country music star Gabby Barrett.
“This is a combination of so many efforts,” said Kenneth Manuel, District 4, CEO of the Gila River Gaming Enterprises—Wild Horse Pass, Lone Butte, Vee Quiva, and Santan Mountain Casino. He added, “As a Community member who’s vested in what we do here, it’s extremely important for me to do something for the Community and make the Community proud.”
Gila River Resorts & Casinos Santan Mountain is at 7101 S. Gilbert Road, Chandler, and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.