FORT MCDOWELL, AZ – The We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort has celebrated its one-year anniversary. Originally opened in 1984 as the first casino in Arizona, Ba’Ja Bingo was renamed twice over the ensuing 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 their slot machines paved the way for Indian gaming and enabled the tribe to build a strong community for their members.
Three years ago, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation committed to building an entirely new smoke-free facility to better reflect its brand and provide an elegant, contemporary ambiance for gaming enthusiasts and restaurant guests.
Rising to the challenge of unveiling a state-of-the-art 166,341 sq. ft. facility during a global pandemic, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and their dedicated employees worked tirelessly to open the new casino while ensuring the health and well-being of all who worked and played there by adhering to all CDC recommendations and implementing personal protection measures throughout the property.
The result was a new facility that raised the bar for casinos in the area, boasting an impressive array of slot machines, bingo, tables and gaming amenities; fine and casual dining outlets; live entertainment; and Native American design elements reflected throughout the property.
Key milestones achieved over the past 12 months are:
- We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort was named “Best Casino” for 2021 in PHOENIX Magazine’s popular “Best of the Valley” Reader’s Choice section.
- The casino and hotel, previously separately managed and operated enterprises, were unified under one entity to build a more cohesive brand, maximize efficiencies, and achieve economies of scale.
- Ember, the casino’s fine-dining steakhouse, achieved the Wine Spectator “Best of Award of Excellence” for 2021, recognizing its excellent breadth across multiple regions and significant vertical depth. Ember is one of only seven restaurants in the state to receive this award.
- A partnership with Betfred Sports has been established, and a plan to build a Las Vegas-quality retail sportsbook to bring sports betting to Arizona residents is being finalized.
- Tribal gaming compacts have been signed, along with the legislative changes required to enact them, after years of good faith negotiations with sister tribes toward a modernized compact with the State of Arizona.
- Two new table games have been introduced: Roll To Win Craps and Blaze Roulette.
- A new Dining Studio has been unveiled, featuring scratch-made food from around the world at Dragon Wok and Noodle and Las Tapas.
- Approximately 75 of the latest slot machines have been added in the newly named The Mint slot room.
- A user-friendly app has been released that shows room rates, highlights promotions, and showcases upcoming entertainment events. It allows users to book accommodations and reservations at Ember steakhouse, enroll in the Fortune Club, and learn more about meeting venues.
- A finalist for AZRE Magazine’s annual Real Estate and Development (RED) 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 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,” said Bernadine Burnette, President of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. “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.”