After restructuring and consolidating its four loans that fund its casinos into one, the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise (NNGE) presented the tribe with its first payout on June 28—a $5 million check. The enterprise develops and manages casinos on Navajo land.
"Rather than pay four different loan payments, we restructured the loans to have only one payment," Phefelia Bradley, government affairs manager for NNGE, told the Farmington Daily Times. "Based on the restructuring, the interest rate was reduced and we were able to come up with an amount that we can pay back to the Nation."
The money will go into the tribe's distribution fund. When the tribe initiated NNGE in 2006, said LoRenzo Bates, chairman of the Navajo Nation Council's Budget and Finance Committee, "The Nation decided not to do per capita payments, but to do a distribution plan. As a result of those terms, it frees up dollars that can be contributed back to the Navajo Nation."
The $5 million will be distributed to individual chapters as needed for infrastructure, housing, education and economic development, among other things.
“Today marks the beginning of a new step into the future for Navajo gaming and our government,” said President Ben Shelly during a press conference held at the Quality Inn Friday morning.
“We look forward to future revenues so we can keep our nation moving forward to better prosperity for all our people,” Shelly added.
The payment reflects the strong performance of the Navajo Nation's three casinos. The tribe made its first foray into gaming with the Fire Rock Navajo Casino, which opened in November 2008 in Gallup, New Mexico. Two years later, Flowing Water Navajo Casino began operating in Shiprock, New Mexico. In the same county, San Juan, Northern Edge Navajo Casino debuted in January of this year in Upper Fruitland. Construction is underway on the Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort—the tribe's first casino on the Arizona side of the Four Corners reservation in Leupp. The enterprise broke ground on Twin Arrows in March 2011. This summer, the gaming enterprise is recruiting employees to staff the casino, projected to open later this year or in early 2013.