Tesuque Casino, located beside the Santa Fe Opera, opened its doors Friday to a steady stream of visitors that organizers estimated would reach 5,000.
The 72,000-square-foot casino features 800 slot machines and 10 table games. It replaces the 50,000-square-foot Camel Rock Casino, which was also on Tesuque tribal land and which closed on Nov. 14.
"It's a fancier casino than the older one," says Marvin Martinez, a Las Vegas, New Mexico resident and one of the casino's first visitors. "It's really nice, it's really open and the view is beautiful. A lot of machines; a lot more machines than what they has at Camel Rock."
It employs around 275 people, according to Tim Brown, the president and CEO of the Pueblo of Tesuque Development Corp., compared to Camel Rock's 200. Brown says some employees are from Tesuque, but most are from Santa Fe.
While early in the planning stages and into the casino's construction, some worried that its placement right next door to the open-air Santa Fe Opera would change the experience there. According to Brown, the casino will not have much of an impact on its neighbor.
"I don't see noise being an issue at all," Brown tells SFR. "Lights, we worked with the opera to use much lower-density lights and much shorter light bulbs. I meet with the opera all the time. We're good friends."
Rick Vigil, the governor of the Pueblo of Tesuque, referred to Tesuque Pueblo members' participation in the Santa Fe Opera's rendition of Doctor Atomic earlier this year.
"We had an interaction with some of our tribal members doing a dance with the opera," he tells SFR. "So you look at culture and tradition that we would like to share with our neighbors. And it's going to complement businesswise to where what they need in their industry we can support, vice versa, whatever industry we may need from them. It's building a partnership and working with Santa Fe."
Vigil says the new casino is the second largest in the area—behind Buffalo Thunder on nearby Pojoaque Pueblo.
"We're looking at opportunities for everybody—citizens within the valley, job creation," he says.