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Gaming group betting big on far West Valley

New casino at 303, Northern Parkway under construction near Surprise

Posted 4/24/24

Surprise residents have been telling city leaders for years they want more entertainment and fine-dining restaurant options.

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Gaming group betting big on far West Valley

New casino at 303, Northern Parkway under construction near Surprise


Surprise residents have been telling city leaders for years they want more entertainment and fine-dining restaurant options.

Now thanks to the Tohono O’odham Nation, residents are getting just that right outside the city limits.

The nation this week unveiled details of Desert Diamond Casino White Tanks at San Lucy, the $450 million facility near Loop 303 and Northern Parkway that is expected to open later this year.

The casino complex, on 80 acres of Tohono O’odham Nation trust land, will include a 184,000 square-foot casino floor with 900 slot machines, a poker room, a sportsbook and table games featuring blackjack, craps, roulette and baccarat. Plans call for 48 table games, including 16 poker tables and a room for high-stakes betting.

And for local foodies, Morton’s Steakhouse is coming to the far West Valley for the first time, along with five other eateries in a food court next to the casino floor.

Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise, a division of the Tohono O’odham Nation which owns and will operate the casino, has plans for Delish, a sub shop; Taqueritaville, a Mexican restaurant; Chucks for hamburgers; Spit Fire, a rotisserie chicken joint; and Pub Stop, a high-energy bar.

“There’s something for everybody,” said Mike Bean, CEO of the Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise. “Everybody says ‘There will be something there for me. I may be a gamer or I may like sitting at the bar or I like watching at the sports bar.’”

It will be the fifth casino for Desert Diamond Casinos and Entertainment. Beside a West Valley location near Westgate in Glendale, the group operates three locations in southern Arizona: Tucson, Sahuarita and Why.

Randy Howe, the project’s director of construction, said the complex will be about 60% of the size of the West Valley location near Westgate.

“Although it’s going to be smaller than the West Valley, it will be the same quality of experience,” said Treena Parvello, director of government and public relations for Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise.

The casino complex at 8200 N. Sarival Ave. will have two entrances — from Sarival and Northern avenues. The main entrance is from Sarival, while cars can more easily access the parking garage from Northern, across from the Wildlife World Zoo.

Construction will be done in several phases with the majority of the casino opening in the first phase by the end of 2024.

The second phase of the project, whose timeline hasn’t yet been set, will include a 350-room hotel, 65,000 square feet of convention space, a pool and spa, more retail and dining options, as well as a 2,500-seat entertainment venue.

Future phases could include more retail and entertainment development that still haven’t been set, Bean said.

“We believe we will have a pretty strong presence as an entertainment facility,” Bean said. “There really isn’t anything like what we’re doing and we’re planning.”

The first phase of the project is creating 5,500 construction jobs. Once completed, the facility will employ more than 1,000 team members. Hiring will ramp up by the end of September and throughout October, Bean said. Tribal community members will have preference for the jobs.

“We’re going to continue to work with local vendors to further stimulate the economy,” Bean said. “We believe the project is going to be a great compliment to all the great entertainment options the area already has.”

Bean said he wants the facility to drive customers from across the region, not just the Surprise and 303 corridor.

The gaming enterprise is working closely with Glendale on traffic and infrastructure near its border. Meanwhile, the Surprise City Council earlier this year approved an emergency services agreement with the nation to provide aid when needed.

Officials gave the media a tour of the facility on April 23, showing off its new parking garage, which was erected in less than 50 days. The casino roofing is already underway and exterior walls are in finishing phases.

The casino will be a nonsmoking facility, which is the latest trend in casinos, which are historically smoke-filled, smelly places.

Bean called it a “silver lining” of COVID because it forced casinos to ban smoking while not alienating some of its customer base.

“It turns out our non-smoking guests are now much more of a majority and they come back more often because they don’t go home smelling like smoke,” Bean said.

Jason Stone can be reached at jstone@iniusa.org. We’d like to invite our readers to submit their civil comments, pro or con, on this issue. Email AZOpinions@iniusa.org.