June 17, 2022 3 min read


Gila River Has Appointed Santan Mountain Casino’s New Management Team

At the beginning of the year, Gila River Resorts & Casinos rebranded itself, then chose  National Basketball Association’s Jae Crowder as its first-ever brand icon in April. Now, the company has chosen the new components of its freshly appointed leadership team. The team will be responsible for managing the brand’s new Santan Mountain Casino. It will include Blake Katsnelson, Aaron Bayne, Sera Rubble, and David Baughn. 

Blake Katsnelson Is a Gila River Veteran

Katsnelson is no stranger to Gila River. He has been part of the team since 2009, filling in marketing coordinator and manager positions, working in the player club departments as a supervisor, or fulfilling his requirements as director of casino marketing for Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino and the Lone Butte Casino for five years between 2016 and 2021.

Before reaching Gila River, he also spent more than three years as the vice president board of directors for Settler’s Point South (Phase 1) Home Owners Association. Katsnelson was also a licensed real estate agent for Keller Williams and spent almost six years as a sales supervisor for Best Buy at the beginning of his career. He graduated from the Arizona School for Real Estate and he also has a Bachelor’s degree in  Mass Communication/Media Studies from Arizona State University.

Aaron Bayne Has Almost Three Decades of Experience

Santan Mountain Casino’s new director of table games Aaron Bayne has an equally impressive resume spread over 27 years. Bayne spent most of his life engaged in the gaming industry, and 20 of them were dedicated to Gila River where he fulfilled a number of different positions.

The list includes table games supervisor, pit and shift manager jobs, as well as a casino manager position he successfully fulfilled for almost a decade. Before establishing his headquarters at Gila River, he also worked as table games supervisor and dealer for Soaring Eagle Casino for four years. 

Sera Ribble Cocharo – Lucky 13 With Gila River 

Ribble is another Gila River veteran, having spent more than 13 years with the brand as a restaurant manager and restaurant general manager at the Gila’s Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino in Chandler, Arizona, as well as a Restaurants General Manager for Lone Butte Casino. 

Ribble was also fine dining lead at The Lodge Casino for almost six years and Lead Server at Mountain High Casino. Sera will now be Santan Mountain Casino’s new director of food and beverage.

David Baughn, the New Director of Facilities

Boughn has been Gila River’s director of facilities and EVS for Gila River Gaming Enterprise between 2015 and 2019. After that, he spent 17 months as Choctaw Casinos & Resorts’ facilities maintenance manager. In 2020, he came back to Gila River as director of facilities and EVS. In total, Bought has over 25 years of experience in the industry, 15 of which he spent in tribal facilities.

Building Lifelong Careers

Gila River’s chief executive officer Kenneth Manuel talked about the company’s “reputation of building lifelong careers”. He referred to the highly valuable investment in “personal and internal growth”, emphasizing how numerous leadership members chose to dedicate many years of their lives to the growth of the enterprise.

The new casino will host 800 slot machines and table games and will have its own BetMGM sportsbook, along with bar and restaurant facilities. In total, 700 staff members will be recruited from the local community starting in July.


Although Fiona doesn't have a long-spanning background within the gambling industry, she is an incredibly skilled journalist who has built a strong interest in the constantly growing iGaming network. The team at GamblingNews.com is glad to have her on our roster to help deliver the best stories as soon as they hit. Aside from writing, she loves to dabble in online casino games such as slots and roulette, both for her own enjoyment and also as research to better improve her understanding of the industry.

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