Tribal gaming's share of U.S. casino revenue seen growing

A state-by-state analysis of Indian gaming’s economic impact shows southeastern Connecticut’s two casinos generated more in tax revenue and direct payments to federal, state and local governments than the tribal gaming facilities in all but four states that are much larger than Connecticut.

The analysis is contained in a report that finds the tribal casino industry supports 635,000 jobs and generates more than $33 billion in wages, nearly $97 billion in sales and more than $16 billion in payments to government, the American Gaming Association has announced.

Citing an “information gap” in regard to tribal gaming, the AGA commissioned Nathan Associates, an economic consulting firm, to conduct the first comprehensive study of tribal gaming’s economic impact in every state in which tribes operate casinos. Alan Meister was the primary author of the report, “The Economic Impact of Tribal Gaming: A State-by-State Analysis,” which the AGA released last week at an event in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun combined to pay $828.6 million in taxes and gaming-related payments to all levels of government in 2014, according to the report. Topping the list were California, where 72 tribal gaming facilities accounted for more than $3 billion in payments, and Oklahoma, where 126 facilities paid nearly $2.2 billion. Ranking third and fourth, respectively, were Washington (32 facilities, $1.2 billion in payments) and Florida (eight facilities, $1.1 billion in payments).

“Tribal gaming has experienced tremendous growth over the years, becoming an important component of the casino gaming industry,” the report says. “Since the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, tribal gaming has grown 300-fold from a $121 million segment of the U.S. gaming industry, consisting of small bingo halls and gaming facilities, to a $30 billion plus segment in 28 states that includes many resort destination casinos that are on a par with the most successful commercial casinos in the country.”

Foxwoods, the largest casino in North America, opened in 1992; Mohegan Sun opened four years later. In 2014, some 490 tribal gaming facilities generated just over 44 percent of all casino gaming revenue, the Nathan Associates report says. 

“This report helps our industry tell a story about the totality of casino gaming in the United States,” Geoff Freeman, president and chief executive officer of the AGA, said Monday in a statement. “Together, commercial and tribal gaming drive $240 billion in economic activity, approximately $70 billion in gross gaming revenue, nearly $40 billion in taxes and direct payments to governments and 1.7 million American jobs. When embraced as a potent economic force, our industry is best positioned to advance our shared interests at the local and federal level.”

The AGA is advocating that the U.S. Supreme Court reverse a federal appeals court ruling that upheld a ban on sports betting in any form in all but four states and prohibits all states but Nevada and most sovereign tribal governments from allowing traditional, single-game sports betting. 

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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