A $175 million casino and hotel complex is going up on the Navajo Nation near Twin Arrows about 20 miles east of Flagstaff.
The tribe now proposes to open this fourth tribal casino in May 2013, and to hire some 800 employees (mostly Dineh) to operate it.
The Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort, near Interstate 40, will have nearly 1,100 slot machines, blackjack and poker tables, 200 hotel rooms by winter of 2013-2014, a gift shop selling mostly low-price items, a food court, a sports bar, and ultimately a spa area.
Longer-term plans include parking areas and amenities for high-end motorhomes, a nightclub, a conference center, and a spa with steam rooms, massages and hot tubs.
Total revenues are anticipated to be slightly less than $100 million annually, but that is a rough estimate, said Derrick Watchman, chief financial officer for the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise and a former banking executive.
The enterprise runs the casinos and recently sent $5 million in net revenues to the Navajo Nation government for its use.
Watchman hopes to make that $30 million, altogether, in addition to $2.5 million sent to the state annually from a gaming system projected to employ 1,500 across all Navajo casinos.
Employees in the Navajo casinos typically earn $24,000, have full benefits, and have the option of employer-paid education.
"It's a pretty decent wage, I think, for the area, for what we're doing," Watchman said.
Watchman and another longtime gaming administrator spoke Monday afternoon at a forum organized by Coconino County Supervisor Mandy Metzger at a restaurant on Townsend-Winona Road east of Flagstaff.
"It's been exciting in terms of economic development and employment," to watch the casino proceed, Metzger said.
More than 30 people attended and asked questions about jobs, distribution of proceeds, transportation to the casino and site-specific questions. Some came from as far as Chinle.
Audience questions about which fire department and law enforcement agencies would cover the casino area were not totally resolved.
The casino plans to serve liquor, but there's a three-drink limit, and alcohol will only be served in food-serving areas (a food court, a restaurant -- not on the floor of casino).
"We're planning on a very upscale steakhouse," Watchman said.
The conference center is intended, in part, to capture business from the Navajo Nation government, which often travels elsewhere to find large meeting space.
Workers will travel from afar, to start.
The casino is expected to draw tourists and outside visitors, not Dineh residents.
Watchman said he did not know how much water the casino would use, but that it would be supplied from four wells in the area.
The hotel would go through a certification system to show it was built with conservation in mind.
"We will show that we're trying to be as environmentally friendly as possible," Watchman told the audience.
Bernice Carver's husband died of lung cancer, and she has been one of the strongest proponents of smoke-free policies in Coconino County.
"Are the employees going to be having a smoke-free workplace?" she asked.
Not unless other casinos do the same, Watchman responded.
People had dismissed this casino earlier, he told the audience.
"A year ago, people were saying, 'It's not going to happen.' Six months ago, people were saying, 'It's not going to happen,'" he said. "Now they're saying: 'It's going to happen -- how can we get involved?'"
Cyndy Cole can be reached at email@example.com or at 913-8607.
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