Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, the business entity of the Navajo Nation operating the tribe’s gambling establishments in Arizona and New Mexico, announced Thursday plans to temporarily lay off on New Year’s Day more than 1,100 workers.
Temporary Layoffs to Cut Costs
The Gaming Enterprise noted in its release that due to the impact on revenue from the prolonged casino closures, it was left with no other option but to move ahead with the layoffs, leaving only the minimum number of employees on payroll, 165, to ensure the maintenance of essential functions at the casinos.
The Navajo Nation spans in parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, and operates 4 casinos, Twin Arrows Casino Hotel in Flagstaff in The Grand Canyon State, and Fire Rock Casino in Church Rock, Northern Edge Casino in Farmington and Flowing Water Casino in Shiprock in The Land of Enchantment. Together, the 4 gaming properties employ more than 1,200 people, including 775 members of the tribal community.
Tribal officials have repeatedly aired their concerns in the past few months that at one point layoffs would become necessary if casinos were not allowed to resume operations at least with limited capacity.
“Due to the extended closure, since March 17, 2020, our business operations have been severely impacted and as a result, we must make very difficult financial and personnel decisions.”
Brian Parrish, Interim CEO, Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise
Permanent Closures Also on the Cards
Reiterating its stance, the tribe went further in its Thursday release, warning that unless casinos are allowed to re-open, or more funding is allocated to keep operations running at the gaming establishments, the tribe would be forced to permanently close its casinos, a decision that may come by the end of January.
The $25 million allocated from the federal virus relief aid in August has run out and the tribe’s $460 million investment is now at stake, as permanent closures for the 4 casinos would lead to around $220 million in annual losses from revenue and other economic activity, besides the initial investment loss, according to the interim chief executive officer of the Gaming Enterprise.
“The Nation’s vision took years to build but the Nation has been successful. If it allows its gaming industry to fail, a permanent closure will cause a long-term setback for Navajo economic development, even if it eventually reopens.”
Quincy Natay, Chairman, Navajo Gaming Board
Brian Parrish ended on a positive note, expressing his belief that the tribe’s casinos could still re-open safely with reduced capacity and avert the worst possible scenario.