Indian Gaming Today

Monday, November 24, 2008

More on the New Navajo Fire Rock Casino

Hundreds of people had to wait to get in to the Navajo Nation's newly opened Fire Rock Casino, near Gallup, NM. More than 4000 people showed up on Wednesday to try their luck.

The Nation’s business model appears to focus on internalizing dollars spent and dollars received, as well as on building tribal economic and institutional capacity. The Nation reports that it financed the casinos, 92 percent of casino employees are Navajo, and it is not using an outside management company.

For more, see “
Navajos Bet First Casino Is a Winner,” “Navajo Trail to Gaming,” and “Navajo Nation Opens its First Casino in New Mexico.”


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Amidst Concerns, Navajo Casino Set to Open

The Navajo Nation has long exercised its tribal sovereignty *not* to conduct gaming. As we wrote in our first book, Indian Gaming and Tribal Sovereignty: The Casino Compromise (2005):

For some tribes, gaming simply is not an option because their reservations are located in states that disallow any form of gambling. For others, isolated locales or lack of financial resources may restrict their ability to open or sustain a casino.

Even in the absence of these practical limitations, a few tribes have chosen not to pursue gaming enterprises based on tribal values and beliefs. Perhaps the most-cited example is the Navajo Nation's past rejection of gaming -- but that may change.

The Navajo Nation is both the largest tribe, with over 250,000 enrolled members, and the largest reservation in the U.S., covering 17.5 million acres in northwest New Mexico, northeast Arizona, and southeast Utah. In the mid-1990s, the tribe twice voted down referenda to build a casino. Opposition to a tribal casino was strongly influenced by Navajo beliefs that gambling can corrupt and destroy.

In 2002, Arizona voters approved Proposition 202, which allotted casino and slot machine rights to both the Navajo and the Hopi, who also have rejected gaming in the past. The referendum allowed either tribe to open its own casinos or to lease their rights to other tribes in the state. Recently, the Navajo announced plans to build a casino near Albuquerque in the Tohajilee Reservation, a small satellite of the main Navajo reservation. Despite tribal teachings against gambling, many Navajo are encouraged that gaming may help raise the living standard of a people whose unemployment rate is 44 percent and per-capita income is just over $6,000. "We thought we would be better off economically if we could do the same thing that other tribes have done in the area," said Tohajillee Chapter President Tony Sacatero. "Even if you don't have a casino here, people are still going to go someplace else. But if you build it here, the money is going to stay here."

Now, three years after we wrote that, the Navajo Nation is set to open Fire Rock Casino near Gallup, NM. The casino is expected to generate about $32 million in revenue for the tribe, and to diminish the tribe's current 50% unemployment rate. Still, many tribal members continue to raise concerns about alcohol, smoking, and problem gambling.



Friday, November 07, 2008

Obama and Indian Country

Wow! We have a new tag for blog posts: Obama!

An historic election has come and gone, and now President-elect Obama has begun the process of building a transition team and his incoming administration. What will be the outlook for Indian Country? Let's try to suss out some informed predictions.

First, Obama is an empty vessel, with little record to examine concerning Indian Country. As outsiders, we can pour much into that empty vessel, at least in terms of expectations.

Second, as we all know, Obama faces enormous expectations across the board. This certainly is the case in Indian Country. He has been set up (and has set himself up) to succeed or fail –- and not much in between. Such high expectations are impossible to fulfill.

Now, let’s look at the basics. In terms of a general philosophy, Obama lines up pretty well with a Clintonian view in at least two ways: government generally can play an important role in generating opportunities for greater legal, political, social, and economic equality, and the federal government should support initiatives that promote American Indian tribal self-determination and economic development.

Given that, what specifics can we point to in terms of what we can expect? We’ll address those in the next post.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

More on Supreme Court Arguments in Narragansett Case

For more on the historic Narragansett case, see these links:

AP coverage of the case.

Providence Journal article on which attorney actually argued the case.

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