The new CEO and president of Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale literally knows the business from the casino floor up. John Dinius has worked at almost every level of the casino industry in his decades-long career in gaming.
After an extensive national search, the Salt River Community Gaming Enterprises Board tapped Dinius for the top position in the company on Feb. 15. The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community owns and operates Talking Stick.
Dinius will lead resort through major renovation
While there are dozens of tribal casinos in the state, there are no Arizona online casinos. That could change in the future, as The Grand Canyon State allows online sports betting.
Salt River board chair Bernice Cota-Gann said Dinius is the right man at the right time at Talking Stick.
“The depth and breadth of John’s experience make him the ideal CEO to take Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort to the next level. His appointment comes at an exciting time for our properties as we ready ourselves to mark many milestones in the weeks, months and years to come – among them, a major renovation at Talking Stick Resort as well as the 25th anniversary of Casino Arizona.”
Dinius praised his new employers.
“I am honored to join Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort. The properties have stellar reputations within the industry and are market leaders within the state. My goal is to help each property grow and evolve, while maintaining their position as the standard bearer for gaming and hospitality – all of this with the purpose of supporting the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.”
Dinius takes the reins from Dennis Leong. Leong retired at the end of 2022 after 13 years as CEO, Cota-Gann said.
“Dennis brought professionalism and elegance to Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort. He has served our enterprise loyally, guiding us through times of hardship and great prosperity.”
From bingo hall to boardroom
“Depth and breadth” truly nails Dinius’ extensive background in the casino business. He began as a bingo tab puller at the Sycuan Casino Resort in San Diego and spent more than two decades there.
He has worked at almost every level of the casino business in his career, including:
- Slot attendant
- Operations manager
- Slot director
- General manager: 2014-2019
- CEO: Table Mountain Casino, Fresno, CA
In a 2019 interview with Global Gaming Business Magazine, Dinius reminisced about his earliest days at Sycuan.
“I felt like I walked into the job of a lifetime. It didn’t feel like work. I just fell in love with the guests and the team members. And then when I got exposed to the tribal members, it just felt like home.”
Dinius’ time as general manager at Sycuan turned out to be very productive. On his watch, the property expanded from a casino into a major resort. He also boosted visitation to the property, created one of the largest non-smoking areas at a casino in California, and grew the casino’s loyalty program.
Though shorter than his run at Sycuan, his time at Table Mountain was equally notable. During Dinias’ tenure, Table Mountain debuted a new multi-million-dollar casino resort. It’s that experience that most impressed the Salt River board.
“Playing a key part in these large-scale initiatives … has given Dinius unique insights into the inner workings of the gaming and hospitality industries.”
Talking Talking Stick Resort
Talking Stick Resort opened its doors in 2010. Since then, the Scottsdale property off the 101 freeway has received numerous awards, including three “Best Casino” designations. The resort boasts several features.
- 497 guest rooms/suites
- Three pools
- World-class restaurants
- Live venues for entertainment, including the 25,000 square-foot Salt River Grand Ballroom and an outdoor pool stage
The “major renovation” Cota-Gann referred to in her Dinius welcoming statement will be a new poker building. Talking Stick Resort expects it will open in 2024.
Performers that have rocked the resort include Pitbull, Fitz and the Tantrums and Hollywood Vampires. And in January, Live Nation announced that Talking Stick Resort is the new name-in-title sponsor of the popular venue formerly known as the Ak-Chin Pavilion. It will now be known as Talking Stick Resort Amphitheater.
Music stars scheduled to perform at the Talking Stick Resort Amphitheater this year include Shania Twain on May 30, Matchbox Twenty on May 31 and Janet Jackson on June 7.
And as Casino Arizona heads toward its 25th anniversary, it recently opened a new bingo hall and also a taqueria.