A refresh and upgrade to Arizona’s We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort have given the property a new look and an enhanced experience for guests. A spokeswoman for the resort, Gail Manginelli, says guests will discover a higher-end feel.
COVID-19 shutdowns are in the rearview mirror in the Grand Canyon State, and one Arizona casino emerged from the pandemic with a new look.
A one-stop spot for Arizona casino vacationers
Arizona’s first casino sits 30 miles northeast of Phoenix on Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation land.
Before the pandemic, it was the Fort McDowell Casino and a separate entity from the We-Ko-Pa hotel. Now, post-pandemic, the casino, and the hotel are rebranded together as the We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort.
The vision was for the property to become a one-stop spot for casino vacationers. Manginelli said:
“We have everything right here — fine dining, a casino, golf, outdoor activities and a spa. And you feel like you’re away from it all, even though you’re close enough. All you see is desert.”
The united front between the casino and the hotel will help We-Ko-Pa operate the now single entity more efficiently. It will create “a more cohesive brand,” according to Manginelli.
History of Arizona’s We-Ko-Pa hotel and casino
The casino opened in 1984 and was the first casino in Arizona. Back then it was known as Ba’Ja Bingo.
In 2006 came the hotel Radisson Fort McDowell Resort and Casino. It wasn’t until 2014 that the hotel took on the name of We-Ko-Pa Resort & Conference Center.
The hotel currently houses 25,000 square feet of meeting rooms, 246 sleeping rooms, a spa, and two outdoor pools.
What are the casino upgrades?
We-Ko-Pa is open 24 hours and houses:
- A bingo hall with 400 seats
- 16 blackjack tables
- Over 900 slot machines
New table games have been added to the casino floor, including roulette and craps. Additionally, guests will find the addition of eight kiosks for Arizona sports betting.
A notable change made with the refresh is that the facility is now completely non-smoking. Christi Windle, Director of Sales at We-Ko-Pa, says this is a major benefit for those who find smoke offensive.
“No one has ever smoked in it,” Windle says. “With other casinos, even if it’s smoke-free, you can still have lingering smoke.”
Award-winning fine dining added to We-Ko-Pa’s portfolio
Ember is the resort casino’s fine dining restaurant, which was added during the property’s refresh. The restaurant serves steak and seafood and has received rave reviews from guests.
The property’s new premier dining establishment has also earned We-Ko-Pa significant award recognition. The restaurant was recognized in the top 10 restaurants in Arizona with the best service in OpenTable’s 2022 Diner’s Choice awards.
In both 2021 and 2022, Ember also received the honor of Wine Spectator Magazine’s Best Award of Excellence for the restaurant’s superior wine curation.
800 wines from 22 countries sit on Ember’s extensive wine list, and 32 of them received a perfect score with Wine Spectator.
We-Ko-Pa Executive Director of Food and Beverage, Zac Gallo, attributes the consecutive awards from Wine Spectator to his team. Gallo explained:
“That we won this award two years in a row – which also happens to be how long Ember has been open. Is a testament to our entire staff’s commitment to excellence.”
Guests of the resort casino also have some other options for dining on-site:
- Comfort food for breakfast and lunch at Ahnala
- All-you-can-eat restaurants in The Dining Studio, Las Tapas, and Dragon Wok & Noodle
- Craft beer, pub food, live music, and sports betting at WKP Sports & Entertainment
- On-the-go eats at the 24-hour quick service restaurant, The Market
More updates coming for Arizona’s We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort
One update the casino plans is for the cabanas in the pool area. Deluxe versions of the cabanas will include individual refrigerators and televisions for each of them.
The casino hoped to complete the pool area in May of 2022, but Windle says supply chain issues caused delays.
While Phoenix and the rest of the nation still face business challenges in the wake of the pandemic, We-Ko-Pa says occupancy is surpassing what it was before COVID-19 hit.
“Everybody’s just super excited to come out and have an experience,” Windle says. “They give me three to four dates and we’re all booked.”