If you haven’t been to Gila River Resorts & Casinos Wild Horse Pass just south of Ahwatukee Foothills lately, you might not know what the ubiquitous TV ads that promise a glitzy Las Vegas-style experience are referring to.
And in fact, it boasts a range of new offerings designed to appeal to locals as well as visitors.
In addition to a rebranding from Gila River Hotel & Casinos, the $180 million expansion includes an 11-story hotel tower, a sports book, Topgolf Swing Suite, a new rooftop steakhouse and patio bar, coffee and pastry shop, pool renovations and additions, gaming tables on the casino floor and more conference and convention space.
To be clear, the Gila River Resorts & Casinos Wild Horse Pass only refers to the casino and attached resort run by the Gila River Gaming Enterprise. Other businesses on its land, including the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, the Whirlwind Golf Club at Wild Horse Pass, and others are separate entities.
The project, which broke ground in 2020, mostly was completed in January with the exception of the Topgolf Swing Suite, which opened in May.
“It’s only been open a few weeks, but we’ve been pretty busy,” said Daniela Vizcarra, public relations manager for Gila River Resorts & Casinos.
This is the only Topgolf Swing Suite in the state, Vizcarra noted, and includes two bays for up to eight people playing virtual sports against a screen, including golf, hockey, football, soccer and baseball.
It also features a full bar, table games, three betting kiosks, a broadcast/DJ booth and more than 20 TV screens. It accepts walk-ins, and reservations are accepted on OpenTable.
Topgolf is open Thursday through Sunday and can be booked for private events Monday through Wednesday, with catering and blackjack available.
During regular hours, “You do not have to play Topgolf,” Vizcarra mentioned. “It’s an open bar—you can just hang out.”
It’s housed on the second floor, where the old Shula’s Steak House was located, with a birds-eye view of the gaming floor below.
Opposite Topgolf, also overlooking the gaming floor, is the sports book, which Vizcarra said was “packed” during March Madness. It was their first time taking bets for it since the 2021 Arizona Gaming Compact was signed.
With a capacity of 246, Wild Horse Pass is the biggest of Gila River’s three sports books, which also opened at Vee Quiva and Lone Butte. It has a full bar and food service as well as rows and rows of big screens and 10 betting kiosks (there are two more near the River Bar).
Although all bets are placed online, Vizcarra noted an employee is always on hand to help.
“A lot of people have never done this before, so it can be a little intimidating,” she said, adding, “Because we are on the reservation, you can only bet here in person” and not on an app on your phone.
The nonsmoking casino floor also got a refresh with new colors, carpeting and lighting as well as a giant LED screen. After the gaming laws changed, the casino also added a total of 51 table games like blackjack, craps, roulette and baccarat.
“We are really catering to the Asian community” with baccarat, Vizcarra said, offering perks and incentives.
The gaming floor still includes 1,100 slot machines and a food court, and just outside is the entrance to the 1,400-seat Showroom theater that hosts music, comedy and more.
Also upstairs next to the sports book is a gift shop and a new café called Aroma Coffee & Pasticceria, selling Starbucks drinks as well as desserts and gelato.
Just past that is the new, brighter, modern 11-story Sunrise hotel tower with 205 guest rooms and suites.