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Navajo Nation Council extends Gaming Development Fund

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – After discussing the latest casino development in a morning work session, the 21st Navajo Nation Council convened in the afternoon for a special session and passed legislation extending the Gaming Development Fund until May 1, 2013 for future gaming projects. The council also considered legislation to annex the parcel of Twin Arrows land to the Leupp Chapter, but that legislation expired as a result of amendment efforts to the proposed measure.

In the work session, the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise delivered the council updates of its gaming initiatives, including the design videos of the Upper Fruitland Casino and Twin Arrows Casino and Resort. The Freidmutter Group of Las Vegas, renowned in the casino industry, is the architecture and design firm responsible for both casino projects.

Bob Winter, CEO for the NNGE, said Navajo gaming has exceeded revenue projections, including the newly established Flowing Water Casino in the Tse Da Kaan Chapter. In the first 10 days of operation, the new casino exceeded projections twice more than was predicted and has a workforce of 100 percent Navajo.

“We have exceeded Fire Rock projections by 100 percent,” Winter said. “We increased our profits 10 percent of last year. We are exceeding our projections at Flowing Water Casino with most of the projections coming from Ute Mountain.”

Based on the revenue projections of current casino operations, Winter anticipates the same results for the Upper Fruitland, Twin Arrows and the Chinle Casinos.

“When the Navajo people say there is employment, you can say, ‘We developed the casinos and there are jobs,’” said Edward T. Begay, former speaker of the Navajo Nation Council and a member of the NNGE Board of Directors. “They say this casino business is going to drive us crazy, but I do not think so. These casinos generate money.”

Begay commended the council for supporting gaming development on the Navajo Nation, an effort he pushed as speaker of the 19th Navajo Nation Council.

Approximately $40 million for the Upper Fruitland Casino and $100 million for the Twin Arrows Casino and Resort from the Navajo Nation Master Trust Fund will finance both casinos. On July 29, the Budget and Finance Committee amended term sheets for the construction of both facilities, which are tentatively scheduled for groundbreaking this winter.

Following the work session, the council passed the Gaming Development Fund Amendments Act of 2010 by a vote of 69-9. The passage of the legislation extends the Gaming Development Fund to May 1, 2013 to fund development activities necessary to establish additionally-planned casinos.

The council also considered the passage of Legislation No. 0677-10: “Acknowledging the selection and pending placement of the Twin Arrows Parcel into trust status for the benefit of the Navajo Nation; and annexing the Twin Arrows Parcel into the Leupp Chapter.”

After considerable debate and amendment efforts to the legislation, the NNGE and Navajo DOJ clarified to council that the amendments change the intent of the legislation, which was drafted to move forward with gaming at the Twin Arrows site. As a result, the council let the legislation expire so as to develop legislation to keep the project moving forward.