Isleta Pueblo Will Spend More than $40 Million Dollars on Casino Renovations

Governor Robert Benevides and the Isleta Tribal Council held a community meeting on October 14, 2017, at the Isleta Resort and Casino (IR&C). Approximately 75 tribal members were present not including employees of the Pueblo.

Casino Highlights:

CEO Harold Baugus and CFO Scott Kennedy were first to speak about the IR&C.

Kennedy stated that there is continued growth for the Casino. They stated that Casino gaming revenues are up 5.4%.

According to Kennedy, negative growth for Sandia Casino and Route 66 Casino based on state reporting requirements for gaming revenue. Santa Ana Star and Isleta are growing. Isleta is pulling away some business from Sandia.

Hotel Revenue is up 2.4%.

According to Baugus, there is approximately 1.2 million people in Albuquerque. Albuquerque is the 2nd most competitive market in the US.

On Thursdays, Casino is extremely busy due to giveaways. It is very productive for the Casino. He is also getting new uniforms for employees of the IR&C.

Baugus stated that in September the IR&C finally provided all employees with an “employee handbook,” which they can take home and keep. He also said that “team members” may review policies and procedures at the Casino.

Baugus spent most of his time describing the renovations at the Casino.

At the end of his presentation, I asked Baugus whether he was hiring consultants to advise the IR&C and why those consultants were necessary. He stated that the only consultant that they had was a food consultant that is helping them with the “food and beverage aspect.”  

He stated that the contractor was bringing in consultants such as a kitchen consultant. But, he denied bringing in any other consultants to advise him on the operational aspects of the IR&C.

Baugus explained that Isleta’s gaming revenue increased 5.4% while Sandia has flatlined. So, I asked whether that meant that Isleta surpassed Sandia. Baugus responded “absolutely not.” He explained that it would be highly unlikely that anyone would ever surpass Sandia unless something drastic happened.

Baugus said that Isleta’s “gaming revenue increase 5% year over year while Sandia’s decreased 5%, Route 66 revenue decreased by about 3.5% and Santa Ana Star revenue went up a little bit.” Baugus said his statements are based on the State’s gaming website.

The Pueblo borrowed $40 million dollars from the Bank of Albuquerque to pay for Casino renovations. I asked how long it would take the Tribe to pay back the loan. Kennedy said that he hopes to make the payback in 3 ½ to 4 years instead of the 7 years that the bank gave the Pueblo.

Baugus explained that one expense not included in the renovation project is a “new roof.” This will increase the total amount of cash needed for the renovations. For the past 17 years, Baugus said that there has been no maintenance of the roof. So, the Casino had about 18 leaks from the last rain.

The IR&C will pay the costs of the new roof directly. It will not be paid from the money borrowed from the bank. This means that the total costs for the “renovations” will exceed $40 million dollars.

The operational expenses for the IR&C increased 1.54%.  The biggest increase was due to costs of insurance for employee health and benefits, which increased by 8%.

I asked why the Isleta Lakes suffered the loss of hundreds of fish dying this year. Baugus said that the Isleta Lakes has infrastructure issues like the Casino. Baugus explained that “one of the pumps at the lakes went out overnight and about 200 fish died.” He said that there was a defect in how the pump was made and a fish jumped into a pipe and it burned out the motor. So, according Baugus, this caused 200 fish to die at the IR&C.  

I asked about consultants because Baugus did hire a consultant, Key Golf Management, to manage the Isleta Golf Course. The Golf Course is a part of the IR&C. Also, the Tribal Council hired the Bluestone Strategy Group to advise them on economic development.


The Isleta Tribal Council is proposing more changes to the Isleta Tribal Constitution. They will discuss their proposed amendments on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 at 6 p.m. at the Old Court House Building. For more information, call the Governor’s Office at (505) 869-3111.

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