Navajo Nation Considers Reopening Casinos at 50% Capacity

The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise (NNEG) asked today for the approval of the Navajo Nation Council to reopen four of its tribal casinos in New Mexico and Arizona.

Bill Requests 4 Casinos To Operate at 50% Capacity

The bill, submitted to the council on November 2, suggests allowing casinos and gaming properties to operate at 50% capacity.

The Navajo Nation operates Twin Arrows Casino Hotel near Flagstaff, Fire Rock Casino near Gallup, Northern Edge Casino in Upper Fruitland and Flowing Water Casino in Hogback. All have been closed since March 17.

The Navajo Blue Travel Plaza is the company’s latest addition. It opened last September near the Twin Arrows Casino Hotel. The legislation proposal demands the Plaza operates at full capacity.

NNEG Faces Permanent Closure

During the October 30 meeting for the Naa’bik’íyáti’ Committee, Interim CEO Brian Parrish announced that the NNEG has used all of its remaining cash reserves. Since the tribal casinos are cash businesses, they generate zero revenue if closed, he also said.

The $14.4 million left from the $24.6 million allocated from the federal coronavirus relief bill will sustain the company through November 30, Mr. Parrish added. The closure is expected to drain the reserves of $6.8 million per month.

If the bill fails to pass, the NNEG may be forced to permanently close and lay off 1,180 employees. Permanent closure would be a long-lasting setback for the NNEG’s recovery, with restarting costs ranging from $30 to $35 million.

“Our big concern is that we want to make sure we can reopen because we need to preserve these jobs and preserve the ability of our team members to be able to provide for themselves and their families.”

222 New Covid-19 Cases in Navajo Nation Since Friday

The NNEG declared in a press release that their casinos are “abundantly prepared” to safely reopen, and that “exhaustive precautionary guidelines” have been set. 

Delegates shared their concern about reopening gaming facilities during the October 30 meeting, as the number of new coronavirus cases continues to rise across the country. Nineteen delegates voted in favor, while three opposed the bill. The legislation moved forward and was submitted to the council today.

Tribal health officials announced on Saturday that there had been 11,753 Covid-19 cases on the reservation with 581 known deaths so far.

The Navajo Nation reported 90 new cases and 3 additional deaths on Friday, 59 new cases and 3 additional deaths on Saturday, and 73 new cases and no additional deaths on Sunday.

The Covid-19 guidelines, such as mandatory masks, daily curfews, weekend lockdowns and staying at home, are still in effect on the reservation.

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