SAN CARLOS — The San Carlos Apache Tribe hopes its plan to tap into the northern Tucson market with a new casino will have a domino effect that will benefit the tribe and several surrounding communities.
The Tribal Council recently approved a second gaming site near the Aravaipa area. The site is just east of Highway 77 between Mammoth and Dudleyville and is near Central Arizona College's Aravaipa campus.
Under the 2003 State Gaming Compact, the San Carlos Tribe is allocated two class III gaming facilities. Its other facility is the Apache Gold Casino Resort located on U.S. Highway 70, five miles east of Globe.
According to a press release, the tribe is planning on opening a temporary facility during the first half of 2014 to be shortly followed by the construction of a larger, permanent facility. The temporary facility will hold up to 400 slot machines, 10 to 12 table games and a small lounge and restaurant.
Depending on the business volume, the tribe plans on building a $26 million facility including a destination hotel, convention center and a 500- to 1,000-seat concert venue, according to Apache Gold Casino Resort General Manager Gary Murrey. He said the location was carefully selected to take advantage of the tribe's available land and an untapped market base.
"It's the southernmost tip of the reservation (and gives) us our ability to provide our services to the northern Tucson area, which is a little under- served from an entertainment perspective of gaming," he said.
The tribe previously postponed construction of a second casino site after the economic downturn in 2008. The loss of revenue even caused the Apache Gold Casino Resort to temporarily close its golf course, discontinue keno games and lay off 9 percent of its work force in early 2009.
"The tribe is excited to take this project off the shelf and put it back into play and further the needs of the tribe," Murrey said. "Revenue generated from tribal gaming has done wonders to help boost the ability for the tribal members to be self-sustaining and to take care of the people who live in the rural areas of the reservation. It's a great opportunity for the tribe to provide for our people."
The new venture is expected to help with the economic recovery and will create more than 400 jobs for the initial temporary casino alone.
"Not all those people will be able to be tribal members from the San Carlos Reservation or members of other reservations, so there will be opportunities for employment for those in the surrounding communities."
Murrey said the casino will have a domino effect and that the increased jobs will bring increased revenue to the surrounding communities, which will, in turn, attract increased business from retail, infrastructure, utilities and spurring the housing market.
"We're looking at a $26 million-plus project, and a lot of those supplies are going to come from local (sources), and a lot of construction jobs are going to come from the local communities," Murrey said. "So there's a lot to be benefitted from the project."