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NIGC reports 2.3 percent increase in Indian gaming

WASHINGTON – Although the economic recession is having an impact in Indian country, Indian gaming took in $26.7 billion in 2008, an increase of 2.3 percent over the prior year.

National Indian Gaming Commission Chairman Phil Hogen released the 2008 gaming revenues at the annual conference of the North American Gaming Regulators Association in Washington June 3.

The increase in the Indian gaming industry’s 2008 revenues represents growth of more than $500 million over 2007.

The commission’s data represents gaming by more than 240 of the nation’s 562 Indian tribes, operating more than 400 casinos and bingo halls in 28 states.

Over the past 10 years, Indian gaming has more than doubled from $9.8 billion to last year’s $26.7 billion. Although Indian gaming continues to grow, its rate of growth has decreased over the past few years.

“We know that the economic downturn has impacted casino and bingo hall patrons, and reports from many tribal gaming facilities reflect that. We are often told that while patrons appear to be visiting tribal gaming facilities as often as in the past, they seem to spend less per visit than before the downturn’s onset. The modest growth reflected in these numbers would seem to show that Indian gaming remains a strong and effective means of economic development for Indian nations,” Hogen said.

The NIGC revenue report breaks data down in various ways, including by the commission’s seven regions.

Two regions – Sacramento and Phoenix – saw decreases in revenues of 5.6 and 3.5 percent, respectively.

The Sacramento region, which has 59 gaming operations in California and northern Nevada, generated $7.36 billion in revenues, while the Phoenix region, with 46 operations in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and southern Nevada brought in $2.77 billion.

While the Washington region has the fewest number of gaming operations – 28 – it is the second top regional earner because it is home to Connecticut’s Foxwoods Resort Casino and the Mohegan Sun, the two largest casinos in the country. In addition to Connecticut, the Washington region includes Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and New York. The region generated $6.77 billion in 2008, a 5.9 percent revenue increase over 2007.

The next biggest earner was the St. Paul region, which includes Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming. That region brought in $4.4 billion, a 4.2 percent increase over 2007, with 115 gaming operations.

But the biggest percentage increases – double digit figures – showed up in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City regions, which include Kansas, eastern and western Oklahoma and Texas.

The Tulsa region generated approximately $1.7 billion, an 18.2 percent increase over the previous year. There are 62 gaming operations in that region.

The Oklahoma City region with 48 gaming operations brought in around $1.35 billion, a 17.6 percent increase over 2007.

The Portland region with 47 gaming operations showed a five percent increase with revenues of $2.37 billion.

Another NIGC data chart shows the percentage of the total $26.7 billion generated by region: Sacramento, 28 percent; Washington, 25 percent; St. Paul, 16 percent; Phoenix, 10 percent; Portland, nine percent; Tulsa, six percent; and Oklahoma City, five percent.

Other data show that facilities with annual revenues of less than $100 million constitute more than 80 percent of the 400-plus operations, while fewer than 20 percent generated about 70 percent of the $26.7 billion in revenues.

Hogen said the figures were compiled from independent audits required annually of all tribal gaming operations by the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The gross gaming revenues represent the amounts bet or wagered by gaming patrons, less the amounts paid out as wins or prizes. Expenses to build and operate gaming facilities must be paid from gross revenues before tribes may use the funds for other governmental purposes. Individual tribes’ revenue information is proprietary information, and thus no breakdown for particular operations is available or set forth in the data.

Hogen explained that the audits are done after the close of each tribal operation’s fiscal year. Nearly half the gaming operations’ fiscal year’s end Sept. 30, 40 percent end Dec. 31 and the remainder end on other dates.

“As has been the case with all the similar annual revenue reports we have issued, these numbers don’t show exact results by calendar year; some tribes’ fiscal year’s end before the calendar year ends. As a result, some of the economic downturn’s impact may not be fully reflected in these numbers.”

“It’s obvious that tribes continue to provide attractive and high quality gaming entertainment to the public. I’m convinced that the vigilant regulatory structure which oversees it – from the primary tribal regulators, to the state regulators participating pursuant to tribal-state compacts, as well as our federal oversight agency – contributes to the continued success of the industry and instills needed confidence that gaming is fair and that the tribal assets and revenues are secure.”