New casino set to open in New Mexico

New Mexico’s Pojoaque Pueblo and Hilton Hotels plan to open the USD 280 million Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino outside Santa Fe this week.

Hilton manages the 390-room hotel and Pojoaque runs the 1,200-slot casino, with staff totaling more than 650.

The New Mexicandescribes Buffalo Thunder as „a high-style, Las Vegas-quality casino“ that will be „the state’s biggest, most expensive resort and casino.“ Las Vegas-based Thalden Boyd Architects designed the complex with a 16,000-square-foot spa, a dozen restaurants, a 66,000-square-foot event center and a „state-of-the-art children’s center“ meant to appeal to local and tourist families.

Richard Ross, Hilton’s director of sales and marketing for the resort, tells the paper, „We hope to attract a very strong local following though our gaming, food and beverage, entertainment, spa and golf offerings. Gaming will also be very attractive to a regional audience that stretches east into Texas, north into Colorado and west into Arizona. With the power of the Hilton brand behind Buffalo Thunder, we will also have global appeal.“

The casino includes 22 table games and a poker room with 10 tables. The Thunder Alley section, a no-smoking area, has 150 slot machines that can trigger special-effects lightning and thunder for promotions.

In today’s general, construction and gaming economies, the project might never have been built, tribal officials say. But construction started 18 months ago.

„It’s all perfect timing,“ says Pojoaque Governor George Rivera. „We signed the gaming compacts, cleared up any legal issues that we had with the state and went out and the financing was available.“

Pojoaque settled a compact dispute and revenue-sharing suit with the state in 2005 by making USD 24 million in back payments from the tribe’s Cities of Gold Casino. That operation, also near Santa Fe, brought in USD 6.3 million in this year’s first quarter.

„I felt like we could have won that case,“ Rivera said recently, but „winning would have upset all the compacts in state.“ Like other New Mexico gaming tribes, Pojoaque agreed to give the state eight percent of revenue.

The tribe credits its builders with moving Buffalo Thunder’s soft opening from November to August 12. Ribbon-cutting is slated for September 3.