New gaming compact allows betting on sports
The Navajo Nation Council, in a special session on Saturday, approved a new gaming compact with the state of Arizona, which will allow the Navajo Gaming Enterprise to accept sports bets from people living off the reservation.
The provision was made possible by legislation approved by the Arizona Legislature allowing both tribes and sports ventures in the state to set up kiosks and have mobile apps that will allow sports betting within the state.
The way this will work, said Brian Parrish, interim CEO of the Navajo Gaming Enterprise, is that Navajo Gaming will work with a partner that has experience in sports betting.
The tribe will then offer to Arizona residents the option to download this app to their iPhone, iPad or computer.
Then, when they want to make a sports bet, they would sign on to their app and make the bet. The Arizona legislation only allows the tribe to accept bets from within the state.
The Legislature is allowing for 20 of these mobile apps to be set up, with 10 going to tribes within the state. That means when the Navajo app becomes available, it will only be available to residents who live within Arizona.
Parrish said the enterprise is hoping to be able to offer this same service through its casinos in New Mexico but that is not permitted under the gaming compact with the state. The gaming compact with New Mexico will have to be modified before that can occur.
The decision by the Arizona Legislature to offer 10 tribes and 10 sporting events within the state to offer this service means that the Navajo Gaming Enterprise will be competing with 19 other entities to get state residents to do their sports betting with the app.
Parrish said that means the enterprise will depend on marketing and advertising to entice Arizona residents to use its app. Part of this may be by offering better betting lines than the others but the downside of that is the tribe would find itself financially vulnerable if the betting lines are too low.
The betting lines will be set up by the tribe’s partner with the tribal enterprise getting a portion of the profits.
The new Arizona gaming compact also allows the enterprise to set up a kiosk in the Twin Arrows Casino and travel center. This will allow visitors to do sports betting when they visit the casino.
Parrish said the main benefit the Navajo enterprise will get through the partnership will be the ability to offer its patrons this service to make the gaming experience more enjoyable.
It is also expected to increase the number of people who visit the casino.
Currently, the enterprise has only two of its casinos open to the public – Northern Edge and Fire Rock. The other two – Flowing Water and Twin Arrows – are still shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But Parrish is hoping to open them up within the next few weeks as more residents on the reservation get vaccinated.
The two open casinos are being operated under restrictions to limit the number of people from outside the reservation. For that reason, Fire Rock and Northern Edge are prohibited from serving people who do not live on the reservation.
They are limited as well to allow no more people inside the casinos once 25% occupancy is reached.
That 25% includes casino employees so the limits allow no more than 460 individuals at Fire Rock and 528 at Northern Edge.
This has not been a problem since the casinos have been seeing at most between 150 to 250 customers.
The casinos are operating under shorter hours — 9 a. m. to 9 p.m. This gives staff time to thoroughly clean the casinos nightly to reduce the threat of contacting the virus.
Visitors to the casinos also are required to wear masks and do social distancing. Staff also has a cleaning protocol they follow when the casino is open.