As leaders in the Navajo Nation we believe it is appropriate to update your readers and address the issues that impact our self-determination and our right to guarantee a sound economic future for our People.
After careful consideration and evaluation of the market, the Navajo Nation chose to enter the gaming industry and opened its first Class III casino in 2008, Fire Rock Navajo Casino, and a second Class III casino in 2012, Northern Edge Navajo Casino. While the other New Mexico tribes and pueblos entered into the gaming industry more than a decade ago, the Navajo Nation has only recently entered gaming and is now negotiating with the state of New Mexico on our compact specific for the Navajo Nation.
Like the other tribes and pueblos, the Navajo Nation wants to ensure that the compact terms and our own gaming industry appropriately serves and supports our people by expanding our economy and generating badly needed jobs.
These jobs and the economic growth our casinos provide are imperative to the long-term self-sufficiency for our Navajo people. Within the state of New Mexico, the Navajo Nation has more than 100,000 enrolled members, more than all of the other New Mexico tribes and pueblos combined. Today, the Navajo Nation has a 50 percent unemployment rate and average income is a third of that of most New Mexicans.
Like all of our fellow tribes and pueblos in New Mexico, the Navajo Nation has chosen to develop gaming as a form of economic development and will make market driven growth decisions. Where the market will support additional operations, the market should drive development without interference.
By protecting our sovereignty and considering the unique nature of the Navajo Nation, we negotiated a compact that was fair and more importantly serves the interest of our Navajo people.
Compact terms include fair revenue sharing with the state, and determine a fair number of facilities based on our size and population and a clear set of guidelines of basic operations. Moreover, we have included socially responsible initiatives such as the collection of delinquent child support payments from jackpot winnings and increasing both state regulatory fees and payments to gambling addiction programs. All terms were carefully considered and the Navajo Nation worked tirelessly to arrive at a government-to-government agreement with the state of New Mexico.
We understand that gaming is an evolving industry, and though we only entered it a few years ago, the Navajo Nation has been quick to address and resolve any issues and work with state officials on making it a feasible, sustainable and mutually beneficial venture for all parties.
Gaming won’t solve all of our social and economic challenges, but we view it as an integral component of building a stronger, healthier and more prosperous nation. Our success also has a significant and very positive impact on the economies of surrounding communities. Dollars generated by Navajo gaming are spent on vendors and business activities for Navajo entrepreneurs and others in Grants, Farmington, Gallup and elsewhere in New Mexico.
By standing by our gaming facilities, even non-Navajo communities are realizing that gaming is important to the economic well-being of the entire state.
The Navajo Nation, like all sovereign tribes and pueblos, have the authority to make decisions, negotiate and enter into agreements in the best interest of their people. As the largest tribe in terms of population and land base in the state of New Mexico and in the United States, we expect not only fair treatment on this issue, but are optimistic that our very positive government-to-government negotiations with the state will result in an approved compact.
Submitted by: Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and LoRenzo Bates, Navajo Nation Council, representing T'iistoh Sikaad, Nenahnezad, Upper Fruitland, Tse' Daa' Kaan, Newcomb and San Juan County.