The development of Cliff Castle Casino Hotel has not only revitalized the local economy; it has enabled the Yavapai-Apache Nation to end generations of dependence by establishing health and social services, and aiding in the preservation of culture through language and documentation of Tribal Elders.
Prior to the existence of Cliff Castle Casino Hotel, the Yavapai-Apache Nation owned 365 acres of land with sub-standard housing, and had 1,200 registered Tribal Members, 35 percent of whom were unemployed. Annual income was limited to government grants, federal assistance, and a few small, tribally owned businesses. Government administration consisted of a part-time, eight-member Tribal Council that met monthly in a trailer. Medical care was available only through federal assistance and required Tribal Members to travel 90 miles each way to Phoenix.
Federal programs to serve Native Americans - per their treaty agreements with the U.S. in the 1800s - were inadequate in meeting existing needs. And, the Tribe had no infrastructure to develop a viable economy and elevate its members from such dependence.
Then gaming became an option in Arizona.
In 1993, the Yavapai-Apache Tribal Council approved plans to open a Tribal casino. In December 1994, the Council established the Tribal Gaming Regulatory Commission to ensure compliance with existing gaming regulations and license casino employees. In 1995, a Tribal Gaming Board was established to oversee casino operations.
Cliff Castle Casino opened on May 24, 1995, with 380 machines, occupying what had previously been the Tribe's hotel. Customers were locals or tourists drawn by nearby freeway signage. For the first time since the re-establishment of its reservation in 1909, the Yavapai-Apache Nation had a steady source of income to begin building an infrastructure for its members.
The Yavapai-Apache Nation opened Phase II of the casino in 1997 by adding 80 more slot machines and a poker room. With a successful track record and vision to create a total entertainment destination for residents and tourists, the casino underwent two additional expansions, which included a 9,600-square-foot conference center and an 80-room hotel with a restaurant, pool and catering services.
The casino currently features a 20-lane bowling center, Kids Quest® childcare facility, video arcade, live-action blackjack and poker, more than 665 gaming devices, four restaurants including fine dining at Storytellers Gourmet Steakhouse, live entertainment at the Dragonfly Lounge and the 3,500-seat Stargazer Pavilion, and hotel accommodations.
The revenue from the casino and renovated hotel operations has allowed the Yavapai-Apache Nation to build a new health center and a cultural resource center for Tribal Members. Ninety percent of the Tribe's operating costs to provide basic health and social services, law enforcement and a full-time government for its people comes from revenue generated by the casino. This funding has also allowed the Yavapai-Apache Nation to renovate 80 percent of homes on the reservation.
Cliff Castle Casino Hotel has provided more than 520 new jobs in a depressed area. It's the largest employer in Verde Valley, and has helped decrease reservation unemployment to 5 percent.
In addition, the Yavapai-Apache Nation uses a significant portion of its casino revenue to support local chapters of the American Red Cross, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Make-A-Wish Foundation of Arizona and United Way, as well as a long list of youth organizations and schools in the area.
The Yavapai-Apache Nation provides funding for college scholarships for all Tribal Members, as well as child and elder care. The Ambassador Scholarship program was also initiated to provide scholarships of up to $12,000 annually to three students in the local area.
Many Tribal Members have returned to the reservation now that work is available and living conditions have improved. The reservation now consists of 644 acres, with another 1,200 held in a pending trust application. All Tribal Members have access to basic health care and social services on the reservation.