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Navajo Nation: Would You Like Slots With That?

Navajo Nation: Would You Like Slots With That?
January 16
09:20 2020


‘Would You Like Slots With That?’

By John Christian Hopkins

How do you like your steak?

Maybe medium-well with a side of slot machines?

You could be in luck. In November Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise (NNGE) bought 14-acres outside of Flagstaff for $5.2 million, That purchase included the Horsemen Lodge, a well-known steakhouse.

Now the NNGE is conducting market research to determine how best to utilize the property.

Could that mean gambling at the Horsemen Lodge?

Not so fast.

First and foremost, the Navajo Nation has made no decisions regarding gaming on the newly acquired parcel.

And, even if the tribe wanted to, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act requires multiple steps that would take several years to complete.

For now they are looking at different applications and mixes of amenities, NNGE Interim CEO Brian Parrish said.

The idea is to include options that complement the tribe’s other enterprises, Parrish said.

NNGE is just one of 22 different enterprises owned and operated
by the Navajo Nation, each with the goal of creating jobs and
stimulating economic development for the tribe.

Late last year, the Navajo Generating Station, the largest coal plant in the western United States, closed after 45 years of operations in Page. Run by Salt River Project, the plant used coal from the Kayenta Mine on both Hopi and Navajo lands, creating substantial economic benefits for the tribes.

The NGS closure meant a loss of between 600 to 800 jobs for local residents, Parrish said.

It also costs the Navajo Nation an estimated $40 million loss to the economy, Navajo Gaming Board of Directors Chairman Quincy Natay estimated.

No question, it presents a hardship to the tribe, Natay said.

But some local Flagstaff residents have been meeting over the possibility of gaming on the 14-acre parcel. More than 60 attended a meeting of the grassroots group Citizens for Neighborhood Preservation. They don’t oppose gaming, but say they are concerned with keeping the rural character of the area.

Rich Bowen, an Arizona economic development professional, sees the recent land purchase as a plus for the tribe – and for the region.

The Navajo Nation, the largest tribe in Arizona, is a major economic driver for the city of Flagstaff, Bowen said.

NNGE is also moving forward on plans for the Navajo Blue Travel Plaza, according to Natay.

Those plans include the introduction of several new Navajo products, including crafted soda, a fudge company and the Navajo Beef and Sausage Company.

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