President of Navajo Nation touts benefits of gaming enterprise

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye speaks at the Arizona Indian Gaming Association's Tribal Leadership Forum on October 30, 2015. Photo from Facebook

Gaming has brought jobs and new opportunities to the Navajo Nation, President Russell Begaye said on Friday.

In just five years, the tribe has built four gaming facilities -- three in New Mexico plus the flagship Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort in Arizona. Begaye said the projects have created 1,500 jobs -- 85 percent of which are held by Navajo citizens -- and have paid out more than $122.5 million in employee benefits and salaries.

“It’s good for our Navajo people to get a paycheck, go shopping and buy cars. It gives them a tremendous sense of pride that they can raise their families,” Begaye said at a Tribal Leadership Forum hosted by the Arizona Indian Gaming Association in Scottsdale.

Through its Class III gaming compacts, the tribe also shares revenues with the states of New Mexico and Arizona. The money in Arizona directly benefits education and other programs.

“We have contributed to raising the salary of teachers and impacted many other state programs,” Begaye said. “Every teacher in Arizona needs to be thankful for Indian gaming.”

The Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort in Flagstaff, Arizona. Photo from Facebook

According to the Arizona Department of Gaming, tribes have contributed more than $1.1 billion since 2004. Of that amount, nearly $992.3 million has gone to the Arizona Benefits Fund, which funds education, emergency services, tourism and wildlife conservation programs in the state.

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