On July 12, the biggest of the Navajo Nation casinos operating in Arizona — and the last to still be shuttered because of COVID-19 — opened its doors.
The Twin Arrows Casino Resort, 20 miles east of Flagstaff, shut down in March 2020, with all tribal lands closed to visitors.
That ban has now ended thanks to legislation signed by Tribal President Johnathan Nez, creating the opportunity to reopen the casino.
Twin Arrows is now open, and the hotel is taking reservations. But it will still be some time before the gaming experience for customers returns to pre-COVID capacity.
What guests can expect at Twin Arrows
Brian Parrish, CEO of Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, provided some insight as to how Twin Arrows will start to build back to normalcy.
“We are starting off with 50% capacity, and we’re gonna stick with that until the nation transitions from the yellow stage to the green stage.”
The Navajo Nation Health Command Operations Center will ultimately make the call to move to green based on the rate of new cases (currently low), hospital capacity and testing rate. When the yellow stage moves to green, the capacity will increase to 75%.
Because the NHCOC still has the nation in yellow, the pool and fitness center at the hotel will remain closed. The Grand Falls Buffet will also stay shuttered. Plexiglass separates all gaming machines, which already sit six feet apart. Plus, all customers inside the casino are subject to temperature tests and must wear masks.
Guests at the hotel will have temperatures checked daily. Those who register 100.4 degrees or higher will not gain access to the casino floor.
Other Navajo casinos open since March
The July reopening is new for Twin Arrows. But the Navajo Nation has two other smaller casinos that have been operating since March: Fire Rock Casino and Northern Edge Casino. Both properties operate at 25% capacity because only they only permitted tribal members to visit at the time. The venue was also undergoing a test opening to see how it would fare.
For comparison, Las Vegas casinos have been at 100% capacity since May. Many other states are following suit. And the Navajo Nation is also eyeing a return to complete normalcy in the coming months.
Now that the tribe lifted restrictions on visitors, allowing the biggest casino to reopen, that soft launch from three months ago can potentially turn into a relaunch of the Navajo Nation’s entire gaming industry.
“It’s been 15 months,” said Parrish. “We’re very excited about this opportunity to reconnect with all of our patrons. On August 1, we’re going to have a grand opening for all of our properties.”