The grand unveiling of Gila River Santan Mountain Casino on June 30 promised an exciting addition to the East Valley entertainment scene. The new land-based casino came complete with an expansive casino sportsbook, 813 slot machines, an array of table games, and a full-service specialty restaurant.
However, as patrons explore the newly opened Phoenix establishment, early reviews paint a mixed portrait of Gila Santan Mountain Casino's opening months.
With a significant investment of $180 million and a construction timespan of 18 months, the casino's opening has been called a notable milestone following the updated tribal gaming compact that opened avenues for new possibilities in the realm of gaming and entertainment. While it's still possible to view the casino as a new jewel in the area's casino scene, a diverse spectrum of opinions has emerged as visitors explore the property's offerings.
Two casinos in Chandler and one in Laveen are already owned by the Gila River Indian Community, so it's very possible that the early reviews will lead to improvements and changes by the casino management. Currently the casino offers several promotions to draw guests in, including a program that gives free play and discounts to veterans as well as free bonus play on your birthday.
The casino's hyped BetMGM sportsbook got positive feedback, even as the casino games brought a variety of reviews, some negative, but mostly very good. Jacob G. said at the end of his visit that "Things were looking fairly grim for the day but as we were preparing to make our exit, we had two back-to-back good hits and walked away happy and in profit. This casino has a very large and nice sports betting area as well as beautiful table games."
"Table limits and then they have the nerve to make you line up in a 2-hour line-up to cash in your chips, if you manage to have any to cash in! Only two cashiers working for the entire casino on a Saturday night."
"Very nice casino. Much smaller than I anticipated it to be, but it’s a pretty good centralized location for the southeast valley. They have everything - card tables, roulette, craps, betting. "
"Please do some research into your data analytics on live table minimums. They don’t always have to be $50-$100. Driving people away."
"I know a lot of reviews said slots were tight, however I won $600 in 5 mins of walking in. And kept winning at every machine I stopped at. Went in with 100 left with 800."
The size of the casino was a surprise to some, with one patron saying "I expected a lot more than this casino had to offer. It's small!! I didn't see games I'm used to seeing, and it was so packed that you couldn't get to sit to play anything. I had to go to high-end slots, which sucked too."
"Great selection of machines. High limit machines and table games."
Patrons complained about the growing pains associated with the new opening and its food and beverage service, with one, Michelle A., saying: "The restaurant is on par with pricing from nicer restaurants in the area. I hope they learn how to make drinks in the bars. I asked for an Aperol Spritzer. The bartender had no clue to what it was. They did have Aperol behind the bar. At the main bar they could not make an Espresso Martini. I will give them sometime to learn. It's only been open a week."
"Worst chili I ever had. A small amount with a side salad for $18. Expensive food... Been there. No reason to go again."
"After placing our order on a digital kiosk, we waited over 50 minutes to get 2 slices of pizza - which were already prepared and in the display case but it was against their "policy" to simply give us the pizza slices so we had to wait until they got to us, to heat up the pizza. The employees took their time, didn't smile and appeared to have no empathy for the 25+ of us who were waiting for their food. There was no place to sit to eat as they had minimal seating. Also, getting a drink took a long time as well."
The brand new design was a hit for most patrons, with Lisa B. saying "Most beautiful casino! Love the white colors and give a relaxing aura. There are plenty of slot games that pay out, and bathroom design offers more privacy. Love the self-serve drinks, soda. Lots of room to get some steps in and stay cool. View outside is nice definitely, see myself going back."
"Brand new casino for the East valley peeps that want fine dining and alot of fun. Valet parking. Really nice at night with all the colors."
"It was very bright inside due to the large windows. I feel that this place would have been better if they built a hotel and resort. Make it more family friendly. Either way, I’m sticking with the 5 stars!"
In the future, a hotel could be on the cards, as one reviewer commented that the property "plans on adding a hotel on the west side of the casino."