The Navajo Nation is asking the public to weigh in regarding the possible reopening of its four tribal casinos in Arizona and New Mexico amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Several of the 24th Navajo Nation Council’s Standing Committees are currently considering a reopening plan —legislation No. 0262-20— that would allow casinos and other gaming facilities to operate at a minimum 50 percent capacity. There is currently a petition being circulated among members of the Council, requesting for a special session to be held on Monday, Nov. 2 to consider the legislation, The Navajo Post reports.
In a statement, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez noted a recent rise in cases of COVID-19, both on Navajo tribal lands and across the United States. Nez encourages the public to provide input on the reopening plan by mail or e-mail. The nation’s gaming facilities have been closed since mid-March in an attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus.
“As we continue to see increases in COVID-19 cases on the Navajo Nation and across the country, we strongly encourage all of our Navajo Nation citizens to submit their written comments in support or opposition to this legislation because the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of us and the members of the 24th Navajo Nation Council need to hear your voices. The legislation is making its way through the Standing Committees without any public comments as of today. This is the time to let your delegates know where you stand on the reopening of casinos and gaming facilities on the Navajo Nation. We are grateful to the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise (NNGE) for supporting all of their employees and adhering to the Navajo Department of Health’s Public Health Emergency Orders during this pandemic,” said President Nez.
The legislation outlines the economic impacts to the gaming enterprise during its shutdown, which began on March 17, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The language of the bill states, “NNGE will be forced to permanently close and layoff all employees by November 30, 2020.” If the legislation is approved by the 24th Navajo Nation Council, the legislation states that the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise facilities would be allowed to “resume full operations (twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week) at a minimum 50% capacity until such time as the Department of Health recommends and the NNGE Board of Directors deems it safe and reasonable to increase capacity.”
On Wednesday, the Resources and Development Committee, the Health, Education, and Human Services Committee, and the Budget and Finance Committee each issued a “do pass” recommendation for the legislation with only one opposing vote overall.
Legislation No. 0262-20 and the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise’s proposed reopening plan are available online here.