FARMINGTON - Northern Edge Navajo Casino opened its doors six months ago, and it's fulfilling both negative and positive expectations.

Since opening in January, the casino has been full of people coming to gamble. At the same time, the calls for service and citations in the area have risen dramatically.

While good business is great for the Navajo Nation, Farmington and San Juan County don't see direct tax-related revenue because the casino is on reservation land. The casino does pay 8 percent of the revenue from its 750 slot machines to the state, though. Casino officials declined to release any revenue data or the number of people who have visited the facility.

San Juan County Sheriff's Office doesn't track crime statistics in direct relation to the casino, but it does keep track of statistics for the intersection of the casino's access road, Navajo Route 36 and New Mexico 371.

Between 2011 and 2012, the number of citations issued in a square-mile radius from that intersection jumped by 200 percent, from 60 to 180. The number of calls for service increased by 57 percent. Traffic accidents and DWIs remained the same.

Metropolitan Planning Organization planner Joe Delmagori isn't surprised.

"Initially, we heard that there was a lot of traffic," he said. "After the buzz wore off, the numbers had settled back down a little bit. Things were leveling off as the fad wore off.



The increase has prompted New Mexico's Department of Transportation to conduct a survey to see if a traffic light is warranted.

"We are kind of waiting to see what the DOT is going to do because it's their highway," Delmagori said. "They are doing some internal data collection, but we haven't heard anything as far as a recommendation."

DOT Traffic Engineer Ruben Garcia declined to comment on whether the department had a made a decision about installing a signal.

"We did nine hour-counts of the traffic," Garcia said. "That's where we manually go out and count traffic every hour."

The MPO has traffic count data for the intersection, but not since the casino opened. Prior to the casino opening, approximately 13,000 cars passed through the intersection a day. After the casino, according to the DOT, 14,400 cars passed through the intersection between 7 a.m. and 6:45 p.m.

Another potential impact that had county officials worried was how the new casino would affect SunRay Park & Casino's bottom line. The county receives approximately $3 million a year in revenue from SunRay.

So far, that question remains unanswered, but SunRay has shortened its horse racing season and reduced winning purses for the winners.

City officials haven't noticed much of a difference since the doors opened. Farmington's Police Department hasn't seen any increase in crime or traffic they can link to the casino.

"We don't have jurisdiction out there," said Police Chief Kyle Westall. "We haven't received any emergency calls there."

Farmington's Fire Department has responded to a few calls since the casino opened.

"We have a contract to provide fire protection services," said Fire Chief Terry Page. "They needed a full-time commitment for fire protection services. The county's volunteer agency didn't meet their needs for insurance purposes."

A majority of the calls happened early on, but none of them were serious.

"That first month we had a handful of calls," Page said. "They were mostly dealing with the alarm and suppression systems, but once they got the bugs worked out of that it's been minimal at most."

The contract with the casino is paid by call so it's not a financial hardship for the city, Page said.

"Proximity-wise, they are so close to the city limits that we serve a good portion of that area already," Page said.

One benefit for Farmington that is hard to measure is the increase in gaming-related tourism.

"I believe that it has generated interest," said Tonya Stinson, interim manager of the Convention and Vistors Bureau. "But I don't have any numbers or anything hard to back that up. I can tell you we do get calls and requests asking about gaming in our area."

Much of the county and city land that lies near the casino is privately owned, but there haven't been any proposals for new development, according to both city and county officials.

"I haven't heard of anything like that," said county Public Works Director Dave Keck. "There's been no scuttlebutt at all about any kind of development, and I would have heard it."