No Sitting On The Sideline: Gila River Preparing For Sports Betting At Its Casinos

Written By C.J. Pierre on August 18, 2021 - Last Updated on January 30, 2023
Gila River Setting Up BetMGM Sportsbooks

With the launch of sports betting in the Grand Canyon State weeks away, the Gila River Indian Community is ready to move forward.

Despite no guarantees that it will receive a sports betting license, Gila River has already begun setting up BetMGM sportsbooks at Wild Horse Pass, Lone Butte and Vee Quiva casinos.

The Arizona Department of Gaming won’t reveal which of the 16 tribal applicants will be awarded one of the 10 allocated licenses until the evaluation process is completely done. That process will continue for another week.

Yet Gila River is already devoting 15,000 square feet of space on casino floors to sports betting. If nothing else, this could be a sign that Gila River believes it will make the final cut.

Nothing promised, but Gila River moving forward

When the ADG opened the application window July 26, it came with the high likelihood that more tribal applications would come in than available licenses.

The department certainly expected it, as it devoted eight days for an allocation evaluation period should this situation arise. Indeed, it did.

With the regulatory body expecting to launch legal wagering Sept. 9, the ADG now has to determine which applicants are more qualified for licensing.

It seems Gila River is confident will get the nod, especially with BetMGM in its corner. After all, the sports betting operator entered into a partnership not only with Gila River but also with the Arizona Cardinals, which would allow for BetMGM to set up a retail sportsbook at State Farm Stadium.

Such a deal with the two parties also provides an avenue for BetMGM Arizona to launch a mobile betting app.

What BetMGM will bring to the Southern Valley

The three Gila River casinos combined are seeing over $12 million worth of renovations.

Dominic Orozco, chief strategic marketing officer for Gila River, told  SnTan Sun News, that each of the Arizona casinos will offer its own unique environment to create an experience for bettors that goes beyond placing bets and watching games.

Wild Horse Pass will set up two separate areas with sports betting operations. Additions include huge screens displaying multiple sporting events at the same time while being able to hold anywhere from 400 to 500 patrons.

There will be a 250-inch LED screen that can show nine separate games. The screen will emit different colors at dramatic points in a game. Orozco says this means that if the Cardinals score you’ll see team colors.

Vee Quiva’s sportsbook will feature an outdoor patio, including fire pits where people can enjoy their food during a day of gambling. Meanwhile, Lone Butte will install a VIP section with special menu items.

None of the TVs at any of the sportsbooks will be smaller than 175 inches. Patrons will be able to place bets at cashier cages or from comfortable seating areas.

It may take until early November to complete construction of the three casinos’ books. However, some retail services will be on site.

Timetable to get Arizona sportsbooks up and running

The Arizona Department of Gaming has announced there are 16 applications from entities looking to grab one of 10 sports betting licenses allocated for tribes.

It will spend up to eight days figuring out which are most qualified for Arizona sports betting.

According to the department, that evaluation period will end Aug. 26. Two days later, approved applicants can market and roll out apps to allow customers set up mobile betting accounts.

Less than two weeks later, if all goes to plan, the first legal sports betting options will go live.

Now is just the waiting game. But Gila River is not going to sit idly by waiting. Rather, the tribe is readying for regulated wagering action.

Photo by AP / Jae C. Hong
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C.J. Pierre

CJ Pierre is a multimedia journalist currently residing in the Phoenix-Metro Area in Arizona. He has been covering news and sports for over a decade for both online and TV broadcasts. He was born and raised in Minneapolis and an alum of Minnesota State University: Moorhead. CJ has experience as a reporter and videographer and has covered high school, college and professional sports throughout his career. Most notably following Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Vikings and North Dakota State University football.

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