Arizona’s approval this year of a new tribal gaming compact, coupled with legislation that legalizes sports betting, is creating a whole new world of gaming options for guests at our Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino.
And that means more. More guests visiting tribal casinos. More ways to win. More revenue to support critical tribal, state and local programs. More jobs and economic opportunity for Ak-Chin and other tribal communities.
Guests are already trying their luck at Harrah’s Ak-Chin tables offering craps and baccarat. These and other new table games are now possible at tribal casinos like ours, whereas we were previously limited to blackjack and poker. We also have the ability to increase our slot machines at Harrah’s Ak-Chin and potentially add a sportsbook and mobile sports betting, helping us tap into a growing $20 billion marketplace.
We’ve been preparing for the gaming expansion for months, but the work that made it possible was years in the making. Arizona’s first gaming compact was approved by Arizona voters in 2002. Twenty years and nearly 2 million additional residents later, it was definitely time for an update.
For the Ak-Chin Indian Community, expanded gaming gives us the flexibility we need to better serve our guests, care for our members and plan for the future. Think about it: added amenities give our guests more reasons to visit – and that means extra stays in our resort hotel, trips to its spa, meals in one of our five Harrah’s Ak-Chin restaurants, rounds of golf at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club and more. We’re hopeful a larger number of Arizonans will opt to “stay and play” right here at Harrah’s Ak-Chin instead of making the five-hour drive to Las Vegas.
Long-term, we view gaming – and the revenue it provides – as an engine to support Ak-Chin’s sovereignty and sustainability. Ours is an agricultural tribe – the Ak-Chin people have been farming this land since time immemorial. We’re tremendously proud of our 15,000 acres in production at Ak-Chin Farms, making us one of the largest farming communities in the country. But we also understand well the challenges facing agriculture in Arizona and across the Southwest, and the need to diversify our economy and provide for our people.
Harrah’s Ak-Chin is the largest employer in Pinal County, with jobs for 1,000 people. This includes a number of tribal members, some of whom have been integrated into key areas of the casino’s operation. Statewide, tribal gaming supports more than 38,000 jobs. Gaming revenue also helps fund tribal education, housing, health care and other essential services our people need.
Of course, the gaming compact stipulates a portion of casino revenue must be shared with state and local governments – and expanded gaming and sports betting means more money to go around. It has been estimated the addition of sports betting alone may generate tens of millions of dollars in added revenue for the state of Arizona, benefiting K-12 schools, community programs, public safety, tourism and other services enjoyed by all Arizonans.
And that’s just one more reason we like to say, we all win with Ak-Chin!
Robert Miguel is chairman of the Ak-Chin Indian Community.