Four Is A Crowd: Chandler Residents Concerned Over New Gila River Casino

Written By Matt Boecker on July 29, 2021 - Last Updated on February 14, 2022
New Gila River Casino Concerns

Plans to construct a fourth casino in the Gila River Indian Community are raising concerns among south Chandler residents.

Officials have released few details regarding the two-year project to build the new Arizona casino. While Chandler City Councilman OD Harris revealed some plans, he admitted the tribe has been keeping plans low-key.

Among the details shared by Harris includes a “world-class casino, golf course and a hotel with spa amenities” developed on 580 acres of land.

Chandler residents not happy with new AZ casino

Not everyone has shown as much excitement about a new, large casino in Chandler. That includes city residents.

Calls and social media posts have questioned the ability of the city to adequately allow for traffic flow.

Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Lewis hasn’t addressed the impact it would have on traffic in the city, but he did hit the benefit highlights. That includes additional revenue, security and critical services for the southern Arizona town.

Said Lewis:

“We anticipate being able to add hundreds of new jobs that community members can take advantage of and we expect that many of those will be filled by community members. Just as was the case at the Vee Quiva Casino.”

New casino will add to three other Gila River properties

Gila River already boasts three casinos in Arizona, including two in the Chandler area.

The Lone Butte Casino opened in 2008, followed five years later by the Vee Quiva Casino in Laveen Village.

Chandler’s Wild Horse Pass, opened in 1995, might be the most comparable in size to the new property. Wild Horse stretches over 400,000 in square feet, including 100,000 square feet of gaming.

Sunbelt Holdings President John Graham believes the new casino fills a missing corner in the East Valley’s entertainment market.

But as Harris said, further details remain scant.

“We are still working on learning the details of their master plan,” Harris said. “The Native nation have been keeping things close to chest.”

Updated gaming compact paved way for new casino

The Gila River Indian Community is taking full advantage of the new gaming compact signed by Gov. Doug Ducey in spring 2021.

Originally, a 2002 gaming compact prohibited any new casinos from opening in the Phoenix metro area. Yet the Gila River Indian Community fought hard to put these recent plans into place for a fourth casino. The tribe believed the benefits would outweigh the cons for the community.

However, the amended compact — along with allowing casinos to offer expanded games such as craps, baccarat and roulette authorized the construction of at least four new casinos in the state, including at least two properties in the Phoenix area.

On June 18, Gila River leaders approved the new casino project, which had been shelved since 2007. The new casino will reside on tribal land just south of Chandler, near Gilbert Road and Hunt Highway.

Councilman ensures that Gila River will hear public feedback

In a Facebook post, Harris recognized that the casino’s impact on traffic remains a concern for residents. He added, though, that Chandler “has no current plans” to expand Gilbert Road and Hunt Highway.

Harris emphasized that the city council will pass on all public feedback to the Gila River Indian Community.

“While the City of Chandler will not be involved in the review or approval of the Gila River Indian Community development, we will communicate residents’ concerns and share plans for city infrastructure so tribal officials can make informed decisions regarding the development of the site.”

Two years ago, the Gila River Indian Community pressured the Arizona Department of Transportation to build a highway interchange allowing better access to the Vee Quiva casino. Similar plans may come to pass if the new casino causes congestion on Chandler roads.

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Matt Boecker

Matt Boecker is a 2020 graduate of Northern Illinois University hailing from Chicago. Boecker specializes in coverage of sports betting and legalization. Former teammates and coworkers describe him as a nice guy who tries hard and loves the game.

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