Twin Arrows Casino celebrates expansion and one-year anniversary

A group of Navajo Nation dignitaries including President Ben Shelly, Navajo Gaming Enterprise CEO Derrick Watchman, Navajo Nation Councilmen, Coconino County Supervisor Lena Fowler and former Arizona State Senator Jack Jackson, Jr. celebrate the addition of 110 rooms at Twin Arrows Casino May 3. Katherine Locke/NHO

A group of Navajo Nation dignitaries including President Ben Shelly, Navajo Gaming Enterprise CEO Derrick Watchman, Navajo Nation Councilmen, Coconino County Supervisor Lena Fowler and former Arizona State Senator Jack Jackson, Jr. celebrate the addition of 110 rooms at Twin Arrows Casino May 3. Katherine Locke/NHO

TWIN ARROWS, Ariz. - Twin Arrows celebrated the addition of 110 rooms to its casino resort on May 3 at an event attended by the Navajo Nation president, members of the Navajo Nation council, vice chairman of the Hopi Tribe and other local dignitaries.

The Twin Arrows Casino Resort is also celebrating a year of business this Memorial Day weekend. Derrick Watchman, CEO of the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise (NNGE), said the casino is holding its own even though northern Arizona is more of a challenging market than other areas the Nation has casinos.

"We need to get the word out that we're a fun place to come, that we're affordable," Watchman said. "This area is unique. We're learning how to entice our customers to come in here. We're the crown jewel of the Navajo Nation."

The casino currently employs about 575 people, 85 percent of which are Native American. With the expansion, there are 200 rooms to support conferences of up to 600 people in the meeting rooms.

With the Navajo Nation Shopping Center expansion plans, which cater to a more family oriented crowd than the adult crowd the casino now draws, Watchman said the casino could benefit.

"We know we can complement each other," Watchman said.

He also said that the NNGE is working with the Navajo Oil and Gas Corporation to bring in a gas station.

"We all need gas here," Watchman said.

He said Navajo Nation leadership wants an entertainment pavilion included in the next phase of construction. In addition, the Gaming Enterprise is talking about the addition of an RV park and with the addition of a gas station, the organization is also looking at whether or not a truck stop could be a good addition.

"The Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Corporation, they are into gas stations... they are exploring that next step for them, a truck stop," Watchman said. "Logically, all you really have is truck stops on Interstate 40."

Phase four and phase five will look at how to develop Twin Arrows, Arizona with the other enterprises from the Navajo Nation.

"This is the Southwestern quadrant of the Navajo Nation," Watchman said. "We're next to the Leupp Chapter. How to provide opportunities so people can move home. When I say home that can either be the community or the reservation."

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly said it is important that people realize that the Navajo Nation owns the casinos.

"These are Navajo Nation people owned casinos. Navajo Nation casinos," Shelly said. "We don't owe any money to any bank. The Navajo Nation funded it all."

Shelly also spoke to Alfred Lomaquahu, Jr., vice chairman of the Hopi Tribe, who was in the crowd on Saturday.

"Let me say this right now to my brother, the vice chairman of the Hopi Tribe,... we're going to do a truck stop, we're going to break ground," Shelly said. "We're not done with this casino yet. This is our number one resort. I will tell you right now, I support this casino to go forward. This is on behalf of the people."

Shelly also mentioned that the Navajo people who work at the casino come from miles away.

"They come 60, 70, 80 miles a day just to work here," Shelly said. "Navajo [people] want jobs. They come from a long ways to work here. They want to work. Let's give it to them. Let's make it available for them to have jobs by creating more areas here for them. And they need homes here."

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