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Hopi Tribe finally joins Indian gaming industry as coal mining operation dies down

Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Second mesa on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona. Photo: biotour13
The Hopi Tribe and the state of Arizona have signed a Class III gaming compact.

The tribe had never entered joined the Indian gaming industry amid internal debate on the issue. But former chairman Herman G. Honanie, in one of his last official actions, said it was time to take action because the tribe will lose revenues with the pending closure of a coal mining operation.

“Because the Hopi Tribe faces such an uncertain financial future, I believe providing opportunities and a path to prosperity for our people is of the highest importance,” the former chairman said in a press release on November 30, his last full day in office. “Having a gaming compact gives our tribe the opportunity to generate millions of dollars in much-needed revenue and a way to join our sister tribes in sharing the financial success gaming has meant all across Indian country.”

The agreement authorizes the tribe to operate or lease up to 900 gaming machines. Though Honanie will not be making decisions on the matter, Timothy L. Nuvangyaoma, who took over as chairman a day later, is also concerned about future revenues.

"With the tribe facing a huge loss in 85 percent of their revenue in 2019, Chairman Nuvangyaoma and his staff are ready to hit the ground running on day one to address the most pressing issues immediately," a December 1 press release stated.

In 2019, the Navajo Generating Station is due to shut down. The power station is driven by coal taken from a mineral estate owned by the Hopi Tribe and by the neighboring Navajo Nation.

Both tribes have long depended on revenues from the facility to support their governmental programs and services. They were able to secure a lease extension through 2019 but future operations are uncertain.

The Navajo Nation, much larger in population and land base, joined the Indian gaming industry years ago. The tribe operates four casinos -- three in New Mexico and one in Arizona.

The Hopi Tribe has looked into the industry but prior leaders and many citizens have expressed religious and cultural concerns. The compact -- which still must be approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs -- was the last signed in Arizona.

Read More on the Story:
Hopis sign gaming agreement with Ariz. (The Navajo Times December 4, 2017)
Hopi tribe last in the state to sign gaming compact (The Arizona Republic December 3, 2017)
Hopi Tribe, Ducey Sign Compact To Allow Tribe To Operate Gaming Machines (KJZZ December 1, 2017)