In 1984 the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation opened the first tribal gaming operation in Arizona. What began as Baja Bingo has seen a lot of changes and history, as the Yavapai Nation at Fort McDowell was at the point of the spear for Indian gaming rights in the state and nation.

In 1992 an attempt by federal agents to seize slot machines at the Fort McDowell Casino halted operations, but only temporarily as the nation challenged the state for its right under federal law to operate the casino.

Fort McDowell Casino reopened and grew with more slots and table games.

Eventually the time came for the operation to grow even more to keep up with other tribal gaming operations, which Fort McDowell had a big part in establishing their right to open.

The old building where the original bingo hall opened is still part of the Fort McDowell Casino – that is, until today. The casino will close at midnight tonight and Fort McDowell Casino will be no more.

At 6 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 29, the new We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort will open for a new age of gaming and entertainment in the Northeast Valley and, according to organizers, raise the bar for Valley gaming venues.

In addition to offering a full complement of slot machines, tables, bingo and gaming amenities, the new casino includes a wide variety of dining establishments, event venues, Native American design elements and other features designed to maximize the comfort, safety and enjoyment of all who visit the casino or stay at the adjoining 246-room AAA Four Diamond hotel.

All gaming areas, hotel rooms and public spaces, dining facilities and entertainment venues are 100-percent smoke-free. There are four outdoor lounges designated for smokers.

There is a separate poker room with five tables and two Blackjack pits on the casino floor with several tables each.

In addition, the facility is in full compliance with mandated precautions to keep patrons safe from the spread of COVID-19. Unknown at the time construction began on the new casino, the Yavapai Nation has made “substantial” investment in integrating features that bring it into compliance with medical safety standards.

The 166,341-square-foot casino is designed for 900 slot machines and they will open with 700 boasting screens between the slots. Equipment has been installed to take the temperature of all patrons entering, masks are required and there are even electronic reminders to put on a mask on the slot machines. There are ample sanitation stations and social distancing is being encouraged.

The bingo hall has a capacity for 770 and the facility will open with room for 400 to allow for spacing of patrons. All aspects of the casino will open well below capacity.

Dining

There are six dining facilities within the casino resort. Ember is the new upscale fine dining restaurant with steaks and seafood and a wine cellar holding more than 500 bottles ranging in price from $30 to $2,000, with most falling in the $120 to $150 range.

Ember also features an outdoor patio area with fireplace as well as a separate private dining room for up to 24 people.

WKP Sports Bar is the place for fun featuring pub fare with craft beer. The Big Player is a big burger meal with a pound of ground beef and a pound of fries on the side. Those who finish this meal get a commemorative T-shirt.

WKP has a stage and will feature much of the entertainment for the casino. WKP also features the Verde Lounge, which can be separated for private events and parties.

The Market is for quick serve items for guests on the go and Daubs is the snack bar in the bingo hall. The Buffet will open later in November. Ahnala Mesquite Room remains as the go-to place for hotel guests with American-style comfort food.

Wekopacasinoresort.com is up and running to accept dining reservations and provide additional information on upcoming events and concerts.