TWIN ARROWS Ariz. - Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort, located along I-40, exit 219, just east of Flagstaff, opened May 24 and grand opening events throughout Memorial weekend highlighted Navajo traditions while showcasing the property's state-of-the-art gaming and resort accommodations.
According to resort representatives, the different floors represent the Four Worlds of the Navajo culture, the four colors and the four directions. The importance of corn to the Navajo and basket weaving is also represented throughout the casino.
"We wanted to incorporate Navajo," Chief Executive Officer of the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise (NNGE) Derrik Watchman said. "Navajo is more than just a culture, it's a way of life, that is how we live, every day and every moment is Navajo."
The 267,000-square-foot, 90-room resort and casino cost approximately $200 million to build, including construction costs, the cost of the slot machines and the extra equipment. The Navajo Nation financed the casino by carving out a portion of its rainy day fund to invest in Navajo gaming.
"We have a commercial loan agreement with the Navajo Nation," Watchman said. "The beauty of this relationship is that we pay a slightly higher interest rate and we get the benefit of the capital and the Nation gets a little bit higher return so they have a little bit more money that is being generated for the fund."
NNGE has already distributed $6 million to the Navajo Nation.
"Also our interest rate is roughly 15 percent so right now we are providing revenue to the Navajo Nation on the borrowed money," Watchman said.
During a reception May 22 that included Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize, council delegates and former leaders, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly said Twin Arrows is the newest and grandest Navajo Gaming operation.
"We have created more than 800 new jobs for our economy," he said.
A lot of those jobs are going to Navajos.
"I'm really happy to say that we have approximately 75 percent of the workforce here who are Navajo," Watchman said. "We're happy with that. That is what we have been looking for, especially with this region."
Watchman said NNGE has tried to keep all the development Navajo. The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) provides all the utilities, water, wastewater, electricity and telecommunications.
Shelly said that the Twin Arrows Casino Resort could help bolster Navajo tourism.
"We expect visitors from throughout the world to experience Navajo gaming as they visit other parts of the state like Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon," Shelly said.
Watchman said attracting guests from Navajo, Flagstaff and Coconino County and the Valley will be the first order of business.
"That is what we are going to be challenged with for the next few years," he said.
Shelly said he plans to sign an executive order mandating that all executive branch programs and offices use Twin Arrows for their conferences and large meetings.
"My office will do what it can to build upon the successes we have in our other gaming establishments," Shelly said.
The casino includes more than 1,000 slot machines, a poker room, and restaurants, including the Zenith steakhouse that serves Navajo beef, an oyster bar, a 24-hour restaurant and a food court.
While the resort won't allow drinks on the casino floor they will serve drinks in the sports bar.
"The Arrow Sports Bar is really nice and we're getting lots of compliments on the colors and the number of television screens and, obviously, the ability to have a beverage and get some food," Watchman said. "We're working on getting slot machines in there."
Twin Arrows is already expanding by another 110 rooms, which will bring the total to 200 rooms. A spa may open in early 2014.
While it was reported last year that the Indian gaming industry brought in $27 billion - only $2 billion less than commercial gaming (Las Vegas, Atlantic City) - internet gaming may change the landscape of gaming in the future.
"I know that for us here at Navajo, we have a substantial amount of money invested in our bricks and mortar operation and we have to discuss how you bring that into the mix," Watchman said.
He adds that the underlying reason for gaming in any avenue is to bring jobs to the Navajo people.
"For us and other tribes involved in gaming, the objective is to use the resources that we generate to expand and put into other economic generators," Watchman said. "We're trying to work with other enterprises so that we and the other enterprises can help to develop further the Navajo economy.
Twin Arrows is the fourth casino of the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise. More information on Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TwinArrowsAZ.
About the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise
The Navajo Nation created NNGE, the Navajo Nation-wholly owned business entity, in September 2006. The Navajo Nation authorizes NNGE to develop and operate Navajo casinos in accordance with federal and Navajo Nation laws, as well as the negotiated Navajo Nation-applicable state compacts (New Mexico and Arizona).
NNGE opened its first Navajo Casino on Nov. 19, 2008 - Fire Rock Navajo Casino in Church Rock Chapter, near Gallup, N.M. The second Navajo Casino opened Oct. 13, 2010 - Flowing Water Navajo Casino in Tsé Daak' áán Chapter, near Shiprock, N.M. The third Navajo Casino opened in Jan. 16, 2012 - Northern Edge Navajo Casino - in Upper Fruitland, near Farmington, N.M. The fourth Navajo Casino - Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort - is within the Leupp Chapter, near Flagstaff, Ariz. Currently the NNGE has 1,600 employees.