Concerns raised on proposed Navajo gaming compact

Dec 9, 2013 10:38 AM

The Laguna Pueblo is raising concerns about a provision in the Navajo Nation’s proposed new gaming compact with the state of New Mexico that would let the Navajos have two additional casinos.

Skip Sayre, who handles sales and marketing for Laguna Development Corp., the tribally owned entity that operates two casinos just west of Albuquerque, says the state gaming landscape will completely change if the Navajo compact is passed as currently written.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the Navajo Nation hopes state lawmakers will approve the compact in the coming legislative session.

The Navajos have casinos near Gallup, Farmington and Shiprock and are one of five gaming tribes or pueblos that operate under a 2001 gaming compact and are negotiating new gaming compacts with the state in advance of those compacts’ June 30, 2015, expiration date.

Laguna and eight other gaming pueblos renegotiated their original 2001 gaming compacts with the state in 2007 and will operate under those compacts through 2037, Sayre said.

Sayre questions the viability of two more casinos in the state, saying recent studies indicate that the gaming market here – and particularly in the metro Albuquerque area – is showing essentially no growth.

“We’re concerned about market saturation,” Sayre said.

The pueblos that renegotiated their compacts with the state six years ago are limited to two casinos apiece for at least the next 24 years.

Even though Navajo officials recently told the state’s Legislative Finance Committee they have no immediate plans to build the proposed additional casinos, Sayre said there’s concern the Navajos might eventually revive a 2004 plan to build a casino complex at To’hajiilee, just over a mile west of Laguna’s Route 66 Casino on Interstate 40.

“Locations for additional Navajo casinos have not been formalized at this time,” Derrick Watchman, CEO of the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, which plans and operates Navajo casinos, said in a statement Friday. “Our focus remains on finalizing the compact in the upcoming legislative session.

“The compact will run for several decades, so any future growth . in New Mexico will be dependent on the markets during that time,” he said.

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