Officials: Though short staffed, Twin Arrows has 'reliable service, good food'

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK, May 30, 2013

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T hough the exact figures could not be released on income during Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort's first weekend in operation, CEO of the Navajo Gaming Enterprise Derrick Watchman said he would gladly give other figures.

For example, about 2,000 people have been coming to the casino a day since Friday, as opposed to 600 to 700 a day for the two weeks before. The 90 rooms in the resort hotel was fully booked during the Memorial Day holidays and the hotel has been getting a lot of interest from various organizations about holding their conventions there.

The response from first time visitors has been, for the most part, overwhelming with many of them saying that Twin Arrows can easily compete with the best Indian casinos in the Southwest when it comes to the types and numbers of games and the choice of eating establishments.

Twin Arrows didn't share the fate of the tribe's other casinos in having some patrons to stand in line outside the casino because it surpassed its occupancy level. Watchman reported that there were long lines for people who wanted to be served in the Four Elements Restaurant that opened up on Friday or who wanted to join the casino's Player's Club.

The line to join the Player's Club was expected since the casino offered a number of incentives for club members who played the slots or games.

Watchman said that there were fire department officials on hand to monitor the level of occupancy but because of the size of the casino, there never was a problem of having too many people in the casino at one time.

But there were a couple of problems that Watchman and managers of the casino had to address. The biggest one deals with the number of employees the casino has available.

Watchman knew a month ago that the hotel and casino was short staffed as the opening was coming up so a decision was made to limit the casino's hours until the casino was fully staffed.

The reason for the delay, he said, has been getting employees approved by the tribe's regulatory commission and their counterparts on the state level.

The tribal gaming regulatory office has also been short staffed but has made it a priority to get as many people's background checks done as fast as possible. Each applicant has to be vetted by the state, which requires even more documentation than the tribe.

Watchman said the enterprise is seeing only 10 or fewer applicants approved a day by the state but as soon as they are approved, they are hired and training begins.

This problem, however, hasn't held up the enterprise's goals to get all of the eateries around the casino floor open as soon as possible.

The Four Elements, which will be providing food 24-hours-a-day to casino goers as well as hotel guests, is now operating and the enterprise plans on opening the seafood restaurant, The Reef, on schedule on June 1.

"I am very happy with the quality of the product we have here," said Watchman, adding that the restaurants may "have a few hiccups" but they are providing reliable service and good food to casino and hotel customers.

Another problem the hotel faces will have to be resolved by the Navajo Nation Council, he said.

That deals with the serving of liquor on the Twin Arrows premises.

Currently, liquor is served only in the restaurants. Drinks cannot be taken out of the restaurants onto the casino floor and hotel guests cannot order liquor with the meals they call in to room service.

Therefore, Watchman said, Twin Arrows doesn't have the ability to provide the same kind of service that other casino/hotels in the state can provide and there is fear that this may cause some to go elsewhere.

Watchman said he plans to talk to tribal Council members and see if this policy can't be changed so that Twin Arrows is on the same level ground as the other casinos in the state.