FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation has purchased a $5.2 million plot of land in northern Arizona that could develop into a casino or gaming facility aimed at increasing business and drawing people to other Navajo property, officials said.
The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise announced its 14-acre purchase includes Horsemen Lodge Steakhouse and is intended to direct more restaurant businesses and passersby to the Navajo Nation, especially at Twin Arrows Casino Resort 15 miles (24 kilometers) east of Flagstaff, the Arizona Daily Sun reported.
"We are always looking for opportunities to diversify and grow, just like any business," Navajo Gaming CEO Brian Parrish said.
Navajo Gaming just started reaching out to nearby residents and any developments this year would be insignificant as they complete planning assessments, officials said.
"We're not ruling any of that out, but we have no plans immediately of putting gaming in there," Parrish said.
Plans to build a casino or gaming facility on the property would require Navajo Gaming to convert the land into federal trust land, a process that could take up to three years, he said.
Gaming would then only be allowed if the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and state governor both agree "that a gaming establishment on newly acquired lands would be in the best interest of the Indian tribe and its members, and would not be detrimental to the surrounding community," according to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
Navajo Gaming bought the Horsemen Lodge for $1.9 million and is currently leasing it out to its former owners, Parrish said.
He did not disclose details of the lease agreement except that it included renewal and extension terms, the newspaper reported.
"They're going to continue to operate the restaurant and retain the jobs. We are serving like a landlord," Parrish said.
The neighboring land purchases are expected to be used as acceleration and deceleration lanes between Highway 89 and the property, he said.
"Safety is always a paramount concern for us," Parrish said. "We thought that with the additional parcels there, it might be a good idea for us planning for the future to have more frontage roads so we can have longer acceleration/deceleration lanes."