There are many distinctions about the new Gila River Resorts & Casinos – Santan Mountain Casino that make it stand out from other casinos in Arizona.
As the Gila River opened Santan Mountain Casino before the July 4 holiday, the new casino is hoping to make a splash. This is the Gila River tribe’s fourth casino and furthest southeast of the Phoenix metro area.
A tour of the Chandler casino makes it clear officials had intentions of being different from an ordinary casino.
Gila River focuses on ‘modern’ layout of new Chandler casino
There are more than two dozen tribal casinos in the state, but there are no Arizona online casinos. Lawmakers have not legalized online casinos yet, even though online sports betting has been brisk in the state.
There are several features that make Santan Mountain Casino stand out from other casinos, even from the other three it operates. Gila River Public Relations Manager Daniela Vizcarra told PlayAZ the casino was going for a “modern” and “luxury” feel.
“People think of casinos as a dark place with no windows and people are smoking. We don’t have any of that.”
When walking into most casinos, not many windows are visible and the casino floor is often dark. That is not the case for Santan Mountain Casino.
Santan Mountain takes advantage of the nearly 300 sunny days in Phoenix by flooding the casino with sunlight. Large windows make up many of the walls.
The Santan Mountain Casino is also a smoke-free facility, which officials say has been well-received by patrons. Smoking had been allowed in Gila River’s other three locations before the COVID-19 pandemic. When the state eliminated mask mandates in February 2022, Gila River did not bring back smoking. The casino has designated areas outside for guests who want to smoke.
The casino is designed in a square, where all of the slots and table games occupy the middle of the floor. Any ATM, guest services desk, restaurants, and BetMGM sportsbook are on the outskirts of the floor.
Vizcarra also mentioned other distinctions about the casino that make it stand out. They include:
- Volume of music adjusts to noise level on floor
- High limit room consists of an off-white floor and white chairs
- High limit room contains only the white roulette table in the country
Gila River targeting younger demographic with Santan Mountain Casino
Santan Mountain Casino is taking a page out of Pennsylvania’s book by attempting to capture a younger audience. Pennsylvania casinos have reinvented themselves as facilities that have more than gaming. In doing so, PA facilities have invested $250 million in renovations to enhance customer experience.
Santan Mountain Casino wants a younger demographic inside the casino. When Arizona sports betting became legal in April 2021, all of Gila River’s locations installed retail sportsbooks. Since it’s widely known the younger demographic bets most on sports, retail sportsbooks can be a way to get younger customers in the door.
Vizcarra said it’s the amenities that attract the younger demographic. During opening weekend, the casino hosted country music singer Gabby Barrett. Santan Mountain Casino is able to hold concerts, has fine dining, and a sportsbook to bring people into the casino, Vizcarra said.
“They come in for the amenities and they say, ‘You have a nice restaurant here’ or ‘I never played a slot machine before, let me try it.’ We attract them with those amenities and hope they try other things and want to come back.”
Santan Mountain Casino has largest retail sportsbook in the state
The newest casino has the largest retail sportsbook in the entire state. Gila River partnered with BetMGM Arizona to build a 7,000-square-foot area in the casino.
The new BetMGM sportsbook houses four betting windows with eight kiosks to place wagers. It has a 130-foot LED screen that can televise multiple games at once.
Arizona sports betting exploded in March, as The Grand Canyon State reported $645 million in total bets. Though 99% of bets were placed online, Gila River still felt the need to invest in the largest retail sportsbook in the state, Vizcarra said.
“Amenities. It’s just something to bring people in. It’s another way to introduce people to our slot machines and table games. We wanted to try something different that no one else is doing.”
Upper Deck Deli provides food, but guests can also buy food from other vendors in the casino to bring to the sportsbook. For select events such as March Madness and the Super Bowl, Santan Mountain Casino makes a customized menu available.
Successful opening weekend for Santan Mountain Casino
Vizcarra described the opening weekend as a success for Santan Mountain Casino. The casino reached between 85 to 90% capacity and actually had to turn away customers.
The Santan Mountain Casino food and beverage team was prepared for the turnout and had to work extra hours amid the crazy atmosphere, Vizcarra said.
“It was packed. You couldn’t even walk in here. There were lines of people at every bar and every restaurant. It was crazy.”
Santan Mountain Casino wants to be a premier wedding venue in the area, too. The casino has an outdoor section for events such as concerts, weddings, and a ballroom with 1,400 people.
Santan Mountain Casino also plans to bring a hotel to the casino, which is in the very early stages of planning, Vizcarra said.