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Northern Edge Navajo Casino Showcases Culture, Anticipates Healthy Competition

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The Navajo Nation will open the doors to its third gaming resort, Northern Edge Navajo Casino, on Monday.

Navajo officials hope the casino located in Upper Fruitland, New Mexico will draw patrons from the Ute Tribe's Colorado-based casinos in Ignacio and Towaoc. In addition to the lure of a new gaming house, the Navajos hope the State of Colorado's betting-limit laws will attract high-rollers across the border, reported the Durango Herald.

Still, Raymond Etcitty, chief operating officer and general council for the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, thinks the recent increase in gaming facilities in the region will create a “symbiotic” relationship, attracting more tourists to the area in general. “Anytime you bring new casinos into an area, it creates a synergy,” Etcitty told the Durango Herald.

The new casino showcases Navajo culture and features artwork by commissioned Navajo artists. Among the displays: Navajo rugs, Navajo baskets, wood carvings and Navajo pottery. Even the casino ceiling is a representation of the Navajo
tradition of weaving and of Spider Woman who taught Navajos how to weave. In addition, custom chandeliers depict the Navajo beliefs of the four sacred mountains, four sacred directions, and four sacred stones.

Northern Edge also emphasizes "buy-local." The gaming house's multiple restaurants will serve locally grown produce and meats, in addition to offering traditional Navajo foods such as lamb stew and Navajo tacos. “Everyone says local tastes better,” Etcitty told the Durango Herald.

Northern Edge features 750 slot machines, six poker tables, 10 table games, a restaurant, food court and a gift shop and players club.

As the Navajo Nation looks to fill approximately 374 full-time jobs with an annual payroll of $12 million, including salaries and benefits, applications are pouring in from the general public outside the greater Upper Fruitland area. Numerous employees with some of the Navajo Nation's 16 business enterprises and gaming facilities have also requested transfers to Northern Edge.

The new casino has prompted a number of improvements in the neighborhood.

"[T]he Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise built a three-mile natural gas line allowing the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority to expand its gas services to residents in the surrounding area that were previously dependent on propane," said Bob Winter, chief executive officer of the Enterprise, in a statement. "Also, a new electric substation funded by the Enterprise will bring additional power to both residents and businesses needed for growth in the eastern region of the Upper Fruitland Chapter."

The tribe's fourth casino and its first in Arizona, just east of Flagstaff on the reservation, is scheduled to open in the spring of 2013.