Navajo Nation leader hails action on Class III gaming compact

President Russell Begaye, fourth from left, with Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise board members and staffers. Photo by Lynette Willie / Navajo Nation

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye welcomed final approval of the tribe's Class III gaming compact with the state of New Mexico.

The deal allows the tribe to convert the Flowing Water Navajo Casino in Shiprock from a Class II facility to a Class III one. It also paves the way for an additional casino, bringing the total number in New Mexico to four.

“We worked hard on the compact. This compact is an integral part of the Navajo economy and an exercise of our tribal sovereignty and self-determination,” Begaye said in a press release.

The Fire Rock Navajo Casino in Gallup, New Mexico. Photo from Facebook

The tribe and the state submitted the deal to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in April. Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the agency had 45 days to approve it, reject it or let it take effect to the extent its provisions are consistent with the 1988 law.

The deadline passed without an affirmative answer so that means it is considered "deemed approved" to the extent its provisions are consistent with IGRA. A notice was published in the Federal Register on Monday, only eight days before a prior agreement was due to expire.

“We are implementing the new provisions, including updating the gaming ordinance through the Navajo Nation Council,” said Derrick Watchman, a tribal member who serves as chief executive officer for the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise. “We are training our team members about the new provisions. “This will take about 30 days to complete and make us more competitive and keep us consistent with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act,” Watchman said.

Federal Register Notice:
Indian Gaming (June 22, 2015)

Relevant Documents:
BIA Deemed Approved Letter (June 9, 2015)

Related Stories
BIA raised concerns about Class III gaming deal in New Mexico (06/10)
Navajo Nation to add Class III table games to New Mexico casino (6/9)
Navajo Nation Council leader reports approval of gaming compact (6/8)
New Mexico gaming compact includes self-exclusion provision (04/15)
Tribes in New Mexico send new Class III gaming compact to BIA (4/14)
Navajo Nation signs Class III casino compact with New Mexico (03/25)

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