Gila River Resorts & Casinos exemplifies a commitment to the community ever since it started in 1994 with the Lone Butte Resort & Casino. Beyond providing a top-notch gaming experience, Gila River’s “play for good’’’ initiative integrates philanthropic efforts into their business model. It demonstrates a social responsibility by donating unclaimed jackpots to assist education, healthcare, police and nonprofits dedicated to assisting families. According to Gila River Resorts & Casinos, more than $200,000 has been donated to local nonprofits. Now in 2024, Gila River Resorts & Casinos is celebrating its 30th anniversary and continues to play for good.  

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The Journey Through 30 Years 

Kenneth Manuel, CEO of Gila River Resorts & Casinos, was one of the original employees back in 1994 when Lone Butte Resorts & Casinos first opened. Arizona signed a gaming compact with the Gila River Indian Community in 1993 and the rest is history. Using an old, refurbished building within the Lone Butte industrial park, four state-of-the-art locations were created.  

Gila River Resorts & Casinos has come a long way and has won awards for best video slots, best hotel staff and casino where you feel the luckiest, to name a few.  

What sets Gila River Resorts & Casinos apart are its many partnerships throughout the Valley that support local outreach to the communities it serves.  

According to Manuel, “We have a strong philanthropic arm and one of those is our Gila River Cares, which allows us to give back to many organizations in need, such as Rosie’s House, Arizona Helping Hands, Chandler Fire, Desert Botanical Garden, Tempe Community Action Agency, Ryan House and Soldier’s Best Friend, and this is a big part of what we do here as an organization.” 

To ensure the impact goes well beyond entertainment, Gila River enriches the lives of those in need by donating unclaimed jackpots. “Our gaming compacts in Arizona allowed us to not only sustain and fulfill a need within our tribes, but it also helped the state of Arizona, as well as being able to allocate funds towards organizations within the state of Arizona,” Manuel says.  

According to the “play for good”’” campaign, Gila River has successfully generated $2.5 billion since 2003 for a wide range of cities within Arizona.  

Outdoor seating area at Prime, A Shula’s Steak House, overlooking the pools at Gila River Resorts & Casinos — Wild Horse Pass.

Creating Jobs within the Community 

“I am a great example of this since I am a member of the Gila River Indian Community. Our mission is to generate revenue for the Gila River Indian Community, provide employment opportunities for members of the community, as well as to participate in economic development,” Manuel says. “For members of the Gila River Indian Community, job training is provided to pursue work within the casino resort, which is a strong cornerstone of our human resources department.

“Currently, we have over 3,500 employees, which we call ‘team members’ and a good percentage of them are members of the Gila River Indian Community,” Manuel adds.   

And the order in which we approach applications is with a 4-step process as Manuel states below for consideration: 

  • Gila River Indian Community members 
  • Community members’ spouses and family members 
  • Members of other tribes, as Arizona has many different tribes 
  • Anyone else who wishes to apply 

As a “team member,” volunteer work is offered to extend the outreach to local organizations, “throughout the years, being a good neighbor in the state of Arizona has played a pivotal role, so we have partnered with food banks, and other organizations in need to grant our team members the opportunity to prepare food boxes and donate clothing,” Manuel explains.  

Within the Gila River Indian Community, Manuel says, “Our revenue that we generate does go to very important programs like healthcare, education, housing, fire departments, police departments, so as a sovereign nation, our community has its own tribal government, so we can support our own fire and police departments as well.” 

Aside from those, education plays a big role in their organization, “We have helped several community members go to college and obtain their degrees where they can become lawyers and doctors and receive certifications.” Manuel says. 

Despite the college costs, with the assistance from the revenue Gila River Resorts & Casinos generates, community members can pursue their dreams.  

“Being able to see students graduate high school and have those opportunities is truly impactful to me. Knowing that I play a small role in generating revenue for my community is something that is very heartfelt and I am proud of it,” Manuel continues.  

“As CEO, it’s like I oversee the family business.” Manuel concludes. 

Where We’re Headed 

No other initiatives for Gila River Resorts & Casinos have been announced according to Manuel. However, the company works diligently every day to find new ways to contribute to the community.  

“One of my mantra’s is, ‘I never want to remain stale or stagnant,’” Manuel says. 

Through their various initiatives and partnerships, Gila River Resorts & Casinos create a positive ripple effect throughout the state of Arizona. Their philanthropic efforts and dedication to the local communities will never cease to be a pivotal cornerstone for support and sustainability.  

“I am very thankful to my community for allowing us to do what we do, for the unwavering support and for our amazing guests because we do value your trust,” Manuel concludes.