Canyon Road Arts

New Mexico’s tribal casinos

by Michael Ettema, Santa Fe Director of Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery

Shonto Begay Second Night Glow Acrylic on Canvas 52 x 80
Shonto Begay, Second Night Glow, acrylic on canvas, 52″ x 80″

New Mexico’s tribally-owned casinos have become such familiar landmarks on the tourism landscape, it’s hard to believe they’ve been here only a dozen years.

In 1987, the Federal Government confirmed the right of Tribal governments to operate casinos on their own lands. The State of New Mexico did not allow Indian gaming until 1995, but thirteen Pueblos and Tribes more than made up for lost time by building a total of nineteen casinos, with at least one more one the way.

New Mexico’s casinos cater to a diverse audience of both residents and tourists. They range from intimate slot machine venues such as Pojoaque Pueblo’s Cities of Gold Sports Bar to the magnificent, luxury resort hotels at Sandia, Santa Ana, and Isleta Pueblos.

Glen Crandall Turned Jar of Walnut and Holly 5.25 x 7.5
Glen Crandall, Turned Jar of Walnut and Holly, 5.25″ x 7.5″

Winning the right to operate casinos has become a source of pride for our State’s Native nations. As one of the first instances where the Pueblos and Tribes were able to negotiate with the State as equals, casino enterprises are seen as an essential component of Native sovereignty and self-determination. Unlike Tribal casinos in many other states, New Mexico’s casinos are managed by the tribes themselves, keeping casino operations aligned with Tribal culture and social values.

Of course, Tribal gaming also has very tangible benefits. America’s Indian Reservations still suffer with some of the highest rates of poverty and unemployment and the shortest life-expectancy in the nation. Increasingly, these social issues are being addressed with gaming revenues.  By state law, the Pueblos’ and Tribes’ share of casino profits are to be used to fund community services, economic development projects, and Pueblo/Tribal government operations.

Pair of Bear Paw Black Water Jars attributed to Margaret Tafoya c. 1930 12 x 10.5 each
Pair of Bear Paw Black Water Jars attributed to Margaret Tafoya
c. 1930 12″ x 10.5″ each

For example, Ohkay Owingeh (formerly San Juan Pueblo) used casino revenues to capitalize its tribal construction company, Tse Construction Services, providing jobs for Pueblo residents as well as non-Indians around the state. Pojoaque and Acoma Pueblos have built museums and cultural centers for use of their members as well as to attract tourism. All of the gaming Pueblos/Tribes have used casino proceeds to fund much needed housing, health care, and education services. Sandia Pueblo, which operates the State’s largest casino, is now able to send its members to any school, anywhere, free of cost.

The entire state of New Mexico also directly benefits from Tribal gaming. In 2006, the thirteen gaming Pueblos and Tribes contributed more than 51 million dollars in casino revenues to the New Mexico State Treasury. From two-thirds to three-quarters of casino employees are non-native New Mexicans, spreading payrolls far beyond reservation boundaries and enhancing tax revenues for the State.

In just over a decade, Tribal gaming has grown into one of the State’s largest industries, bringing in tourism dollars, contributing to New Mexico’s growth, and raising the standard of living for our State’s Native American communities., Courtesy John Brooks, Inc.

Tribal Casinos

Acoma Pueblo

Sky City Casino
Interstate 40, Exit 102
Acoma, NM 87034

Isleta Pueblo

Isleta Casino Resort
11000 Broadway SE
Albuquerque, NM 87105

Palace West Casino
At the “Y” intersection of Coors and Isleta Rd
Albuquerque, NM, 505.869.4102

Jicarilla Apache Tribe

Best Western Jicarilla Inn & Casino
US Hwy. 64, Jicarilla Blvd.
Dulce, NM 87528

Apache Nugget Casino
At Hwy 550/537
Cuba, NM 87013

San Felipe Pueblo

Casino Hollywood
25 Hagen Road
San Felipe Pueblo, NM 87001

Ohkay Owingeh (formally San Juan Pueblo)

Ohkay Casino, Highway 68
2 miles North of Espanola
San Juan Pueblo, NM 87566

Sandia Pueblo

Sandia Casino
Tramway Road and Interstate 25 Exit 234
Albuquerque, NM 87113

Sandia Resort and Casino
505.796.7500or 800.526.9366

Laguna Pueblo

Route 66 Casino
14500 Central Ave.
Albuquerque, NM 87121

Dancing Eagle Casino
I-40, Exit 108
Casa Blanca, NM

Laguna Development Corporation
866.352.RT66 (7866) or 866.711.STAY (7829)

Mescalero Apache Tribe
Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and
Casino Apache, 287 Carrizo Canyon
Rd, Mescalero, NM 88340

Casino Apache Travel Center
Mescalero, NM, 800.545.9011

Pojoaque Pueblo

Cities of Gold Casino
10-B Cities of Gold Road
Santa Fe, NM 87506
800.455.3313 or 505.455.3313

Cities of Gold Sports Bar
10-A Cities of Gold Road
Santa Fe, NM 87506

Santa Ana Pueblo

Santa Ana Star Casino
54 Jemez Canyon Dam Road
Bernalillo, NM 87004

Santa Clara Pueblo

Big Rock Casino
460A North Riverside Dr.
Espanola, NM 87532
866.BIG.ROCK or 505.367.4582

Taos Pueblo

Taos Mountain Casino
Main Pueblo Road
Taos, NM 87571
888.WIN.TAOS or 575.737.0777

New Mexico Indian Gaming Association (NMIGA)

Charles Dorame, Chairman
2401 12th Street NW, Ste 211 – N
Albuquerque, NM 87104
Phone: 505.724.3575
Fax: 505.724.3588

This article was excerpted from Canyon Road Arts: The Complete Visitors Guide to Arts, Dining and Santa Fe Lifestyle, Vol 4, 2008-2009, pages 64-67. Canyon Road Arts is published by Medicine Man Gallery. All rights reserved.
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