Alandra Duyongwa of the Hopi Tribe takes part in a Congressional ceremony in November 2013, held in honor of Code Talkers throughout Indian Country. Photo: Caleb Smith / Speaker John Boehner

Hopi Tribe officially joins Indian gaming industry with approved compact

Though it lacks a physical casino at this point, the Hopi Tribe has officially joined the Indian gaming industry.

The tribe's Class III gaming compact with the state of Arizona goes into effect on Tuesday. The Bureau of Indian Affairs considers the agreement to be legal, so long as its provisions are consistent with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

"The Secretary took no action on the compact between the Hopi Tribe of Arizona and the State of Arizona within 45 days of its submission," a notice being published in the Federal Register on Tuesday reads. "Therefore, the compact is considered to have been approved, but only to the extent the compact is consistent with IGRA."

The Hopis are the last in Arizona with a Class III gaming compact. Internal debates kept the tribe from entering the industry for years.

But the pending closure of the Navajo Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant, prompted former chairman Herman G. Honanie to sign the agreement in November, in one of his last actions as the tribe's leader.

Under Chairman Timothy L. Nuvangyaoma, who took office in December, the tribe has continued to follow the gaming path. A recently-concluded request for proposals anticipated a wide range of legal services related to the compact and to the industry.

The generating station, which is set to close next year, is driven by coal taken from a mineral estate owned by the Hopi Tribe and by the neighboring Navajo Nation. The Hopi Tribe has said that 85 percent of its budget is fueled by coal revenues.

"The Hopi Tribe is landlocked and economic diversification on the reservation is incredibly difficult," Nuvangyaoma said in written testimony to Congress last month. "We lack clean water, reliable electricity, and access to reliable and fast internet. These are unthinkable conditions in a country this prosperous – but it is our reality."

The 2017 Annual Report from the Arizona Department of Gaming described the Hopi Tribe as the only one without a Class III gaming compact. That's now changed. Source: Arizona Department of Gaming

The Class III gaming compact authorizes the tribe to offer up to 900 gaming machines. The tribe could operate the machines at its own facility, or lease them to another tribe and share in the revenues, an option that has been exercised by others in Arizona.

According to the Arizona Department of Gaming, five tribes are able to lease up to 613 gaming machines with their Class III compacts.

Forthcoming Federal Register Notice:
Indian Gaming; Tribal-State Class III Gaming Compact Taking Effect in the State of Arizona [Hopi Tribe] (To Be Published May 8, 2018)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
Hopi Tribe finally joins Indian gaming industry as coal mining operation dies down (December 5, 2017)