Taos Mountain Casino opened its doors in 1997 and, right away, became part of the communities of Taos Pueblo and the greater Taos area.
Nineteen years later, Northern New Mexico’s only smoke-free casino draws customers from near and far who come not only to play games of chance, but also to relax in the comfortable, friendly atmosphere that has become Taos Mountain Casino’s trademark.
“Yes, we are small but we think big,” said Director of Marketing JoJo Valdez during a recent interview. “We have so many strong leadership components in the staff here, lead by our Commander and Chief Jennifer Welty. They have brought success and made Taos Mountain Casino a landmark in the community. Taos deserves to have this resource.”
The key to why the casino has flourished over the last two decades is the people who work here, said Valdez. A number of them have been there even before the 1997 opening, and casino management believes that it is the attitude, professionalism and friendliness of its staff that makes Taos Mountain Casino the place “where the fun starts.”
Starting off as a cashier in the cage 15 years ago, Miriam Vigil has steadily moved up the ladder at Taos Mountain Casino. She’s been a floor attendant, floor tech on slot machines, floor supervisor, slot manager and, now, gaming operations director.
Vigil, who lives in Arroyo Hondo, also has found time to earn a bachelor’s degree in special needs education while working evenings at the casino: “It took eight years to complete four,” she said with a smile.
She took on management tasks in 2006 and found she “learned something new every day.” Vigil likes working for the tribe, and particularly because so many different types of people have worked with her at Taos Mountain Casino.
“Our success come from who we work with, both management and on the front lines,” she said. “There’s a positive attitude here that I really like.”
A native of Taos Pueblo, Henry Samora also has 15 years of employment at the casino.
“We have from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. to clean the casino floor and the offices,” said Samora, who oversees five employees on his staff. “I like all my co-workers, they are friendly with a good attitude. The environment here is very supportive.”
As for Taos Mountain Casino’s success over nearly two decades, Samora points right at the people who work there: “I tell my people to leave their problems outside the door, and come in ready to work. They do, and that’s why there is such a strong staff here.”
Originally from California, Jesse Ramos came to Taos to “keep my two brothers company.” He had been in retail for many years before moving to Taos, where he got his first security job at Taos Mountain Casino.
Thirteen years later, Ramos has moved up from officer to sergeant, where he is in charge of the officers on the shift — one each on the floor, front-door podium, outdoors and at the Taos Mountain Smoke Shop. He likes the mellow atmosphere around the casino and the fact that he gets to know customers personally.
“I’ve always been a people person, so this job fits me perfectly,” said Ramos. “What makes it successful here are that we are friendly and open, never afraid to answer a question, and work together to make the customer experience the best.”
It’s been 18 years since Alma Gomez retired from UNM Hospital and got a call from a friend about a gift shop cashier position at the newly opened Taos Mountain Casino. She took the job and, as they say, the rest is history as she moved up to assistant supervisor at the gift shop before taking her current position as guest services host some 14 years ago.
Gomez and her staff are in charge of all elements of guest services: customer relations, promotions, special events, giveaways — and more. She believes that the casino is a place where people can get away from the daily grind and associate with others.
“We all need a place to communicate with others that is comfortable and safe,” said Gomez. “The casino is that place. It’s like family here, we recognize you, and we know you and we all love to be with people.”
Thomas J. Lujan has been at the casino for 15 years and now works in hospitality guest services. He believes that the success of Taos Mountain Casino is tightly linked to the future of Taos Pueblo, especially through its designation as a World Heritage Site.
“We have the manpower at the casino, but it is really part of a larger goal,” Lujan said. “By drawing people to the casino, we can start to rebuild the Pueblo that needs it badly. It’s not only about the people of the Pueblo or the people of Taos. It’s about helping the whole of human beings on a much bigger scale.”
In the coming months, Taos Mountain Casino plans to bring a hot list of promotions for its customers, said Valdez. Included will be:
• A chance to win a new vehicle.
• Celebration of the Olympics with
• A free bedroom set to be raffled off in October.
• Diamonds in December giveaway with
pendants, earrings and rings.
And be sure to take the Hail Creek Road route to the casino as construction will create delays on Veterans Highway, but don’t mind the construction as its improvement will be worth waiting for.
Taos Mountain Casino
700 Veterans Highway
South of the historic
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