CHALLENGES/REWARDS: Just like everyone else, we are still trying to get used to life after COVID. 2020 was a tough year on many levels and changed the way people work, live and play. We rely a lot on tourism and, although we have been fortunate to see a lot of our guests come back to the casino, spring training and beyond, we lost a lot of great staff for a myriad of reasons and opening our properties back up has been quite the journey. Adjusting the way we do business, from gaming to government, has been a series of lessons, but we’re doing well and headed in a good direction.
The long-term effects of the pandemic – like education, mental and physical health – continue to be a challenge for us as a community, but one of the rewards is a direct response to these challenges. Our members and the staff that work for the government and our enterprises continue to rally around us, working to better the lives of our members. Our community events have seen exponential growth in the way of attendance, as have our cultural and special interest classes, and I believe that is because people are seeking reconnection to their neighbors, family and friends. It’s a beautiful thing to witness the simplicity and yet immense impact of human connection.
If the last three years have taught us anything, it is that being open and amenable to new ideas, ways of thinking and new opportunities is imperative if we are to continue to thrive.
PROMOTING LEADERSHIP: Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort are dedicated to creating employment opportunities for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC) and its enrolled community members. As such, the Pathways to Success Program is available to all enrolled community members from their first day of employment. The program is based on the individual’s goals and interests. Currently, 24.5 percent of all enrolled community members are actively working on their educational or career goals.
Many program participants select an education path. This track allows employees to complete their educational goals from their GED to PhD. There is a dedicated classroom and instructor for the onsite GED program. Each year, we are proud to support our GED graduates as they walk with their fellow graduates at the commencement ceremony. To help support employees participating in the program achieve their educational goals while maintaining their job performance and a work-life balance at home, participants can receive up to half their work hours per week as paid time to attend classes, study, and complete their homework.
Through a partnership with tribal government, enrolled community members can join the gaming enterprises through U.S. Department of Labor-approved apprenticeships. Apprenticeships are not always focused on casino positions. In addition to these apprenticeships, the Pathways to Success Program provides paid internships for participants who do not meet the minimum qualifications for the position. Internships include all levels of positions from frontline casino staff to management positions up to the Assistant Director level. These interns work through on-the-job learning, mentoring, classroom training, and other professional development opportunities while working in a full-time position until they successfully complete their Individual Development Plan (IDP) and remove “intern” from their position title.
FUTURE PROJECTS/INITIATIVES: We are fortunate that our gaming revenue has afforded our community the opportunity to do some great things in the way of government programs, services and economic development. One of our proudest achievements is the development of our entertainment corridor, the Talking Stick Entertainment District. SRPMIC is home to nine hotel properties, four of which are owned by our community and over 13 hospitality and entertainment-focused properties like Topgolf, Medieval Times, Octane Raceway and coming soon, PopStroke. Diversifying our development portfolio continues to be a focus for us, as does building infrastructure for future development.
We are also very focused on housing. We have a large population of youth that are entering the workforce, as well as many that are retiring and we want to ensure they have safe and affordable housing here so they can provide for their families in the best way possible. In 2022, we opened a 200,000 sq. ft. healthcare center, the River People Health Center, in partnership with Indian Health Services and are proud to be offering quality healthcare to not only our members, but all Indigenous people.