The Gila River Indian Community plans to build a $60 million, 120,000-square-foot casino on tribal land adjacent to south Chandler.
The site near Gilbert Road and Hunt Highway is less than 3 miles from residents in Gilbert and Sun Lakes and just across the street from south Chandler homes.
The casino, with up to 750 slot machines, a 750-seat bingo hall, two restaurants and a food court, is expected to open in fall 2008.
“We’re in the early stages of planning,” said Dale Gutenson, a spokesman for the Gila River community. “We expect to have our team in place in the next couple of months and get to work in earnest.”
The Tuesday announcement confirmed rumors some city officials and residents in the area have been hearing for years.
Jennifer Garrido, who lives in Sun River, the neighborhood directly across from the planned casino location, said she always thought the Gila River community would build a casino nearby. She listed traffic, drunken drivers and lighted signs as some of her concerns.
“I don’t know that it’s a good thing,” she said. “I knew they were going to do something over there.”
Charlotte Patterson, a resident in the nearby over-55 community of Sun Lakes, said she didn’t expect her opinion to matter much since the casino is planned on Indian land.
But “I don’t need another casino around, that’s for sure,” she said.
She said her home isn’t close enough to be affected by a casino, but she expects neighbors will have plenty to say.
“It will probably cause all kinds of disturbance to the people who live near that section,” she said. “And there happen to be some very nice homes in that section.”
The new casino is part of a plan to move the Gila River Community’s Wild Horse Pass Casino closer to Interstate 10. But the move would have put that casino within 1.5 miles of the current Lone Butte Casino on South 56th Street, south of Pecos Road. The community’s gaming compact with the state requires casinos be at least 1.5 miles apart. The new Wild Horse Pass Casino is expected to open in winter 2009.
The new location was chosen because of the area’s rapid growth and its distance from the new Wild Horse Pass Casino site, Gutenson said.
Chandler officials said they learned of the new casino about two weeks ago.
Through spokeswoman Jane Poston, City Manager Mark Pentz said he is “sure they’ll do a fine job on the project, but the city doesn’t have any jurisdiction over that land.”
But the announcement was a surprise to Gilbert officials.
“I appreciate your call and letting us know,” Town Manager George Pettit said Tuesday.
He said he’s curious about the specifics, such as road improvements leading to the casino.
“Not knowing what their plans are, specifically, it’s hard to say what the impact is on our community,” Pettit said.
Michele Richards, a Chandler resident in the Sun River neighborhood, said the new casino will be within walking distance for her father, who when he visits from Chicago frequents the Wild Horse Pass Casino.
“It will be nice because it’s closer, but try us again in another three years,” she said.
The Gila River community also operates a third casino, the maximum allowed under the gaming compact, near west Phoenix.