We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort celebrates one-year anniversary

Posted 10/28/21

On Oct. 29, the We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort, 10438 N. Fort McDowell Road (10438 WeKoPa Way) in Fort McDowell, will celebrate its one-year anniversary of gaming to Valley residents and visitors to the …

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We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort celebrates one-year anniversary


On Oct. 29, the We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort in Fort McDowell will celebrate its one-year anniversary of gaming to Valley residents and visitors to the area.

Opening in 1984 as the first casino in Arizona, at 10438 N. Fort McDowell Road (10438 WeKoPa Way),  Ba’Ja Bingo was renamed twice over the next 37 years — as the Fort McDowell Gaming Center, and later, Fort McDowell Casino.

The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation’s historic 1992 standoff against federal agents who attempted to seize its slot machines paved the way for Indian gaming in Arizona and enabled the tribe to build a strong community for its  members, according to a release.

Three years ago, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation committed to building a new smoke-free facility. It has slot machines, bingo, tables and gaming amenities; fine- and casual-dining outlets; live entertainment; and Native American design elements reflected throughout the property.

A year of growth and change

Some milestones achieved during the past 12 months:

  • We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort was named “Best Casino” for 2021 in Phoenix Magazine’s “Best of the Valley” Reader’s Choice section.
  • Unified the casino and hotel, which were previously separately managed and operated enterprises, under one entity to build a cohesive brand, maximize efficiencies, and achieve economies of scale.
  • Ember, the casino’s fine-dining steakhouse, achieved the illustrious Wine Spectator “Best of Award of Excellence” for 2021. Ember is one of only seven restaurants in the state to receive this award.
  • Partnered with Betfred Sports and finalizing plans to build a Las Vegas-quality retail sportsbook to bring sport betting to Arizona residents.
  • Signed tribal gaming compacts, along with the legislative changes required to enact them, after years of negotiations with sister tribes toward a modernized compact with the state of Arizona.
  • Introduced two new table games: Roll To Win Craps — a semi-autonomous craps game that lets players shoot real dice across a 12-foot LED playing field screen; and Blaze Roulette — featuring an LED lightbox-lit gaming surface that displays eye-catching animations and game prompts.
  • Unveiled new Dining Studio, featuring scratch-made food from around the world at Dragon Wok and Noodle with authentic Chinese specialty items and Las Tapas with traditional Mexican favorites.
  • Added approximately 75 of the latest, cutting-edge slot machines in the newly named The Mint slot room.
  • Released a user-friendly app that shows room rates, highlights promotions, and showcases upcoming entertainment events, plus allows users to book accommodations and reservations at Ember steakhouse, enroll in the Fortune Club, and learn more about meeting venues.
  • Was named a finalist for AZRE Magazine’s annual Real Estate and Development Awards, as one of the state’s top projects, architects, contractors, developers and brokers in 2020.
  • WKP Sports & Entertainment, the casino’s sports bar-themed restaurant, joined the Untappd app to introduce the Valley drinking community to its wide range of draft and local beers. We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort was the first casino in the state to offer this innovative way for beer enthusiasts to discover new beer styles while tracking and rating brews already tried.

“For more than 37 years, our tribal nation has taken great pride in offering excellence in gaming and we’re thrilled to continue this legacy in our beautiful new facility,” Bernadine Burnette, president of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, said in the release. “Our future plans include launching a new sportsbook facility with Betfred Sports, as well as opening Amore — the newest addition to our Dining Studio that will feature traditional Italian fare.

“We’d like to invite everyone to celebrate our one-year anniversary and experience the magic of We-Ko-Pa for themselves,” Burnette said.

About We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort

Owned and operated by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, the 166,341-square-foot We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort has state-of-the-art gaming, a variety of specialty fine and casual dining restaurants, and live entertainment. The attached AAA Four Diamond hotel offers 246 guestrooms and suites; 25,000 square feet of meeting space; spa treatments at the Amethyst Spa; and two resort-style outdoor pools.

The new casino resort’s proximity to the two courses at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club and numerous outdoor activities at Fort McDowell Adventures make it the ideal destination for a vacation, business function or special event, the release states.

The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation is an 889-member Native American tribe that calls central Arizona’s upper Sonoran Desert home.

Located to the northeast of Phoenix within Maricopa County, the 40-square-mile reservation is a small part of the ancestral territory of the once nomadic Yavapai people, who hunted and gathered food in a vast area of Arizona’s desert lowlands and mountainous Mogollon Rim country.

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