New Navajo Casino Provides Much-Needed Jobs
The Navajo Nation is opening its fourth casino this spring in Twin Arrows, Ariz., just east of Flagstaff. The project includes 1,100 slot machines and 200 hotel rooms. The operators will need a lot of people to staff it.
The unemployment rate on the Navajo Nation is almost 50 percent. So when there’s a job fair promising 800 new positions, people come early.
"I’ve been here since 8 and I got up around 4, said Evangeline Hosteenez, who like many others, traveled long distances from the reservation to be here. Fawn Nez drove about an hour and a half. She said she’s been unemployed for four years.
"This is like a big opportunity for me," Nez said. "There’s no jobs on the here on the res. You just see people just trying to survive everyday."
When complete, the four casinos will provide 1,800 jobs total that range from maintenance to accounting and marketing. Director of Casino Operations Kenny Hsi says there are plans to open more casinos. The first was built near Gallup, N.M., in 2008.
"Other gaming properties were closing down or cutting back," Hsi said. "The Navajo Nation was moving forward, and moving forward at a time when the recession was bad."
For many years tribal members were divided over whether to build casinos. Many were concerned about compulsive gambling and the potential for increased crime.