New casino coming to the southeast Valley

$150M Gila River facility breaks ground

Posted 11/12/21

Gila River Hotels & Casinos officially announced its newest project, Santan Mountain, at a groundbreaking ceremony recently on Gila River Indian Community land south of Chandler. The …

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New casino coming to the southeast Valley

$150M Gila River facility breaks ground


Gila River Hotels & Casinos officially announced its newest project, Santan Mountain, at a groundbreaking ceremony recently on Gila River Indian Community land south of Chandler.

The 160-acre project will cost more than $150 million to construct.

Gila River Indian Community, Gila River Hotels & Casinos and project leadership invited partners and state officials to celebrate the  addition of Gila River’s fourth casino, which was approved by the state’s amended gaming compact in May. 

The entertainment and gaming venue on the southeast corner of Gilbert Road and Hunt Highway will continue growing Gila River Hotels & Casinos in Arizona. With more than 27 years of gaming experience, this new venue was cultivated to bring an entertainment destination and convenient location to the growing southeast Valley. GRIC operates Gila River Hotels & Casinos – Wild Horse Pass and Lone Butte, both in Chandler, and Vee Quiva in the West Valley. 

According to a press release, during the groundbreaking event, Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis and Gila River Hotels & Casinos CEO Kenneth Manuel simultaneously unearthed fresh dirt with the project team. The team includes Steelman Partners, The PENTA Building Group, Tynan Group and the Casino Expansion Owners Team.

Lewis shared his appreciation for community members and his excitement for the future. 

“Not only will Santan Mountain bring additional revenue, sustainability and critical services to our community members, it will elevate our prestige in the gaming and hospitality industry as we continue to craft an entertainment dynasty,” he stated, adding that the project is estimated to create 650 new jobs.”

Gila River Hotels & Casinos hired international architectural and interior design firm Steelman Partners and The PENTA Building Group to design and construct the casino, which is expected to take 18 to 24 months to complete. 

Paul Curtis Steelman, CEO of Steelman Partners, was at the groundbreaking ceremony along with Steelman Partners President Steve Anderson. Steelman was the lead architect for the new Resorts World Las Vegas, and he has designed buildings for Kirk Kerkorian, Steve Wynn, Sheldon Adelson and Stanley Ho. 

Manuel praised Steelman Partners for their innovative design concepts. 

“We are thrilled with the architectural renderings and design components that Paul and Steve have presented to us – they are ensuring that Santan Mountain will be a premier gaming destination for years to come.” he said. 

Steelman said a key focus of the project is to bring the texture, light and elements of the outdoors  inside. The main casino will feature blooming saguaro carpeting, natural light from circular skylights, custom bubble glass and colors inspired by the rising and setting sun. 

The Penta Building Group is a general contractor with extensive gaming and hospitality experience in Arizona and across the U.S.

“Penta is honored to be selected to such an amazing team of qualified professionals. We appreciate the opportunity to partner with the Gila River Indian Community, Casino Expansion Owners Team, Tynan Group and Steelman Partners on this exciting new project, which will be a remarkable expansion to Gila River’s already impressive gaming, hospitality and entertainment enterprise,” John Cannito, president of Penta, stated. 

TynanGroup has managed award-winning projects for the Gila River Indian Community for more than two decades.   

“The comfort of Gila River’s guests is a top priority. Whether a guest is playing the slots during the day or playing at a high-energy, live table at night, Santan Mountain design elements will provide a striking, serene backdrop for memorable entertainment,” Steelman said. 

When complete, Santan Mountain will include more than 850 slots and table games including mini baccarat, craps and roulette, as well as an exclusive High Limit Gaming Salon. The BetMGM sportsbook will extend the casino floor and offer seating, multiple large-screen TVs for viewing live games and convenient sports betting. 

The new property will also provide multiple dining options and a bar in the center of the casino floor featuring entertainment. A hotel may be added in the future. The project also calls for road and other infrastructure improvements in the surrounding area. 

Gila River’s Casino Expansion Owner’s Team Chairman and Councilman Anthony Villareal Sr. expressed his appreciation for the many people who came together to bring the project to fruition. 

“I’m so proud to witness this historic moment, which really is a testament to the hard work of our board and the collaboration of our partners and team members,” Villareal said. “We will have many exciting milestones ahead with Santan Mountain, and all of them will be beneficial to our community.” 

The gaming enterprise is also slated to open a $143 million expansion project at Wild Horse Pass later this year, bringing 205 additional guest rooms, new meeting space, two pools and a rooftop restaurant and lounge to the Chandler property. The project marks the first expansion since Wild Horse Pass opened in 2009.


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