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Updated Dec 9, 2013 - 4:38 pm

Arizona Navajo casino seeks delay in financing repayment

Twin Arrows Navajo Casino and Resort near Flagstaff. (Facebook Photo)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The Navajo Nation's newest casino near Flagstaff is off to a slow start, and the company formed by the tribe to operate the casino wants to postpone paying down its debt.

The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise is working on putting together a temporary agreement to delay repayment of money it borrowed to build Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort, CEO Derrick Watchman said.

Gambling is profitable for the tribe, but Twin Arrows needs more time, Watchman said.

The $200 million facility had a weak start, with sparse crowds at the casino on a recent weekend, the Arizona Daily Sun reported. That left employees complaining that the slow business ate away at their ability to earn tips.

In a move to strengthen itself, Twin Arrows is stepping up marketing efforts with a more aggressive campaign of TV and print advertising, Watchman said.

And Twin Arrows recently erected a massive electronic billboard to announce itself to travelers on Interstate 40. The casino for a time lacked significant signage off casino property.

Over the summer, the casino's average traffic was about 1,000 people a day, Watchman said. That number is now up to about 2,500, he says.

Twin Arrows also expects to benefit from recent agreements with online hotel booking websites, which make their rooms pop up when visitors search for Flagstaff.

But even that hasn't been without its struggles, as companies like Expedia have to navigate entering into contracts with a sovereign government with its own laws.

``Admittedly, it's taking (Twin Arrows) a lot longer to become a recognizable name in the Flagstaff market versus (other Navajo casinos) in New Mexico,'' Watchman said. ``It was a surprise. This is just a different market.''

The Navajo Nation is also looking to improve business at Twin Arrows by doubling down and adding shopping centers and entertainment on an adjacent 40-acre piece of property.

Building plans on file with the county show a long-term development that would include a golf course, laser tag course, an artists' village, a movie theater and condos.

In the near term, a gas station and convenience store being built by Navajo Nation Oil and Gas is expected to be completed at Twin Arrows by March, according to tribal officials. Tribal officials say that the Chevron station will draw more traffic to the casino.

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