A tribal member will take over operations of the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise (NNGE) come January 1, 2013.
Derrick Watchman, current chief financial officer for the NNGE, will replace Robert (“Bob”) Winter, 68, who is resigning. Winter was the first ever CEO of NNGE. He will continue his role as CEO through the year to complete planning for the Pinta Road Casino & Travel Center near the New Mexico-Arizona border, The Farmington Daily Times reported.
The tribe operates three casinos in New Mexico, and a fourth casino is under construction. Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort near Flagstaff, Arizona, is expected to open in summer 2013. Winter will remain with the Enterprise as a development consultant for Twin Arrows.
“I have had the privilege to work for an extraordinary board of directors, as well as with caring and committed Enterprise staff and casino employees during my time with NNGE,” Winter said in a press release.
“When I was confirmed as CEO in 2007, I advised members of the Council that it was my goal to mentor a Navajo for the CEO position and I wouldn’t resign until I had found the right person,” he added.
On June 28, after three years of casino operations, NNGE presented the tribe with its first distribution of gaming profits—a $5 million check, with future distributions expected to increase over the coming years, the press release said. When the tribe initiated NNGE in 2006, it opted for a distribution plan over per capita payments to free up funding for the Nation at large.
NNGE has additionally created 700 jobs at their casinos—85 percent of which are taken by Navajo members. NNGE has paid out $47 million to employees in the past three years, including benefits, Winter said.
“Under [Winter’s] leadership NNGE provided thousands of Navajo people with jobs, competitive wages, and the ability to provide for their families,” said Quincy Natay, NNGE Board chairman. “During Bob’s tenure, he consistently advocated that the Navajo Nation has the talent within to make gaming profitable.”