Three New Fire Rocks: ASAP - 'To Kill The Indian In The Child'
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK – The Navajo Nation's Fire Rock Casino has surprised everyone in terms of the actual numbers it is producing. In fact, it's doing so well that the Navajo Gaming Enterprise is hoping to build three more casinos as soon as possible.
Robert Winter, Enterprise CEO, told the Budget and Finance Committee this week that Fire Rock has “almost a 60 percent EBITA” – an acronym that refers to net profit before interest, tax, and amortization expenses. “There's probably no casino in the United States that has that number. In fact most of their numbers are going down. This is a fantastic number and it seems to be going up.
“We had an initial expansion of 70 slot machines about two weeks ago, and we are now building an expansion in the bingo hall for another 110 slot machines. That expansion should net $23 million a year after all expenses.” A grand opening for the expansion is set for March 28.
Winter said the board now has selected three Class III gaming projects it would like to proceed on as quickly as possible.
One is Twin Arrows along Interstate 40 in Leupp, which will be designed to be a major resort. The project is estimated to cost more than $500 million, he said, with the initial phase estimated at $200 million.
Another project – a permanent facility that most likely will have a hotel attached to it – is proposed along the eastern boundary of Upper Fruitland on Navajo Route 36, about 3 minutes from Farmington. That project is probably in the area of $70 million to $80 million, Winter said.
A third project – a travel center-type facility with a casino – is proposed for Pinta Road, also off I-40.
“Altogether, in first phase construction, you're talking probably close to half a billion dollars for all three of facilities, but more importantly, what this means is jobs. We project that all of the facilities (including Fire Rock), once they're up and operating, will employ 3,000 people,” Winter said, and almost all of those employees will be Navajos. “We project that the payroll for all four casinos will amount to close to $90 million.”
Winter said construction at Twin Arrows will be elaborate, and as with Fire Rock, most of those construction jobs will go to Navajos, “so that's additional income going into Navajo families as a result of this project.
“We project that the overall net profit after all expenses and all financing will be in excess of $100 million to the Nation. It might even be more. We estimate on a conservative basis,” he said. They are approaching three times the figure originally estimated for Fire Rock.
Sean McCabe, chairman of the Navajo Gaming Enterprise board, said that every quarter the state of New Mexico puts out a report on what each tribe pays in revenue share back to the state. From that number they get an estimate of how each tribe did on its gaming net win.
“Fire Rock Casino, at the end of the third quarter, Dec. 31, had only been in operation five to six weeks. But one of the key gaming indicators that we use to measure our performance is a number that we call 'win per unit per day.' What that number tells us is that for each slot machine we have on the floor, this is how much this slot machine is winning for us every single day.
“We did a quick analysis for each tribe based on the estimated number of machines that each tribe is reporting, and their revenue, and Fire Rock Casino is actually the second biggest win per unit per day number in the state. Sandia Casino holds a number for $211 per unit per day. What that tells us is for Sandia's 1,600 machines, every single one of those machines is winning that tribe $211 every single day.”
Fire Rock's numbers were at $201 per unit per day with 485 machines. Now, they're reporting around $360 a day. “The average for the entire state, I believe, was $160,” he said. “These are numbers you can pull off the Web site. This isn't numbers we made up. This is coming from the state.”
Budget and Finance member Nelson Begaye questioned who makes up Fire Rock's customer base.
Winter said they have done customer tracking and though the majority of players are Navajo, most of the market is coming from existing gamblers who have been going to other casinos.
“What we have shown is we have seriously depleted the market from Sky City and Dancing Eagle. They are running marketing programs giving away $80,000. So, yes, the players are Navajo, but they're not necessarily new players. They're players who are playing at other facilities.
“We have not been able to market to any great extent because we had not enough machines for the people that want to come. You can't go out with a marketing program and say, 'Come to this casino' and then when they get here, they stand around,” he said.
With the expansion in slots, however, the Enterprise kicked off its first marketing initiative, designed to bring in non-Navajo players, on St. Patrick's Day.
“We have shuttle buses now that go to the hotels. They're bringing in players from those hotels. The tourist season is just beginning. We have a very, very involved marketing program for the tourists, so you will see a change,” Winter said. The marketing program runs through October.
They also have had a lot of interest from hotels. “I've been asked to put a term sheet together for a group that represents Hilton Hotels. They're interested in putting a 100 room hotel next to the casino,” Winter said. “The deal is we must put a 'no smoking' casino in the hotel. You can do that with Hilton, and you can do it in New Mexico, but you can't do it in Arizona,” where casinos and hotels must be separate.
The only security for the financing of the hotel would be the machines that are in the hotel, Winter said. The hotel would either be a Hilton Garden Inn or an Embassy Suites. “They're also interested in doing something like that at the other sites that we just mentioned.”
After giving a brief presentation on options for financing the three new casinos, the committee went into executive session to further discuss details.
PROJECT - 'TO KILL THE INDIAN IN THE CHILD'
Arthur Bleich, an accomplished photojournalist, has entered a contest in which he could win $50,000 to do a photographic assignment about Native American and First Nations survivors of genocide.
His proposal must get enough votes to go into the final round where it will be judged along with 20 other proposed projects.
The voting deadline is 3 April 2009 so there isn't much time left.
Here's a short summary of the photo project he wants to do and you can read the complete proposal when you go to vote.
"To Kill the Indian in the Child"100 Years of Genocide in North America
To document Native North American survivors of genocide who, as children, were forcibly taken from their families and sent to abusive government boarding schools to have their culture destroyed as a "final solution" to the Indian problem.
Here's how to vote:
1. First go here: http://tinyurl.com/c7exwl where you can read the complete Dream Assignment proposal. There's a voting icon to the left-- click on PIC IT.
2. You'll then be asked to register --which takes only a minute or so. This to prevent multiple votes by the same person. If you do not want to receive promotional material from the sponsor, just leave the "Communication" box unchecked.
3. Within a few minutes after registering, you'll get an email with a URL. Click it and you'll be taken to a log-in page.
4. After logging in, you'll find yourself at the project page again. Once there, click on PIC IT and your vote will be cast.
The voting process is not the smoothest (the sponsor is going to make it easier next year)but it takes only about five minutes and is worth the time.
REMEMBER, YOU MUST VOTE BY APRIL 3, 2009 SO PLEASE ACT PROMPTLY.
Feel free to forward this information to whomever you wish so that as many as possible can vote for this project.
Here's an alternate URL to the one above:
Government Boarding Schools
From the 1870s through the 1970s the Governments of the U.S. and Canada embarked on a program to eliminate Indian culture and language by rounding up native children and shipping them to boarding schools where they were forbidden to speak their language and forced to learn the white man's ways.
Many atrocities occurred at these schools- torture, rape, language eradication, deliberate infection of students with diseases, and separation of siblings. Many students died and never returned home. Many were surreptitiously buried on school grounds, often in unmarked graves.
However, as a prominent Indian tribal member and historian has pointed out: "The real crime of genocide [and later defined as such by the UN] was the forcible removal of children from family, friends and community- other abuses that occurred while it happened, merely makes it worse.
On September 8, 2000, Kevin Gover, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior offered an apology. "Worst of all," he said, "the Bureau of Indian Affairs committed these acts against the children entrusted to its boarding schools, brutalizing them emotionally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually. The trauma of shame, fear and anger has passed from one generation to the next, and manifests itself in the rampant alcoholism, drug abuse, and domestic violence that plague Indian country."
Echoing this on June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on behalf of the Canadian Government, offered a public apology (along $2 billion in reparations) to 80,000 living former students of these schools and said: "Two primary objectives of the residential schools system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture. These objectives were based on the assumption that aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, 'to kill the Indian in the child'."
On my Dream Assignment, I would visit pre-selected Indian reservations in the U.S. and Canada, shoot portraits of the survivors and interview them about their experiences and how their lives were impacted then and to this day. I would also document some of the old school buildings that still exist. The images, along with relevant excerpts from survivors' commentary, would be published as a book and prints for a traveling exhibit would also be prepared.Few Americans and Canadians are aware of this tragic chapter in their national histories (or if they are, tend not to believe it).
I have wanted to do this assignment for some time now but have not been able to obtain funding due to the highly sensitive nature of the subject. The prize money would cover the expenses of the shoot, the publication of the book and the preparation of exhibit prints.
A renowned First Nations Canadian author has agreed to consult on the project and write a preface to the book.Photographically documenting the unconscionable treatment of these children will finally put it on record in a visually graphic way so that it cannot be denied. But most of all, it is hoped that when this Dream Assignment is completed, it will help bring closure and healing to thousands of school survivors whose lives and culture were so cruelly damaged.
Please vote for this project. See voting instructions above. Thank you!
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