Gross gambling revenue from tribal casinos increased 2.5% year-on-year in the 2019 financial year to a record $34.6bn, according to new figures published by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC).
The total was calculated from 522 independently audited financial statements submitted to the NIGC by 245 federally recognized tribes across 29 states, with these split into eight regions to cover certain states.
All but one of these regions reported year-on-year revenue growth in 2019, with the Oklahoma City region – covering Western Oklahoma and Texas – seeing the most growth, with revenue up 7.7% to $2.7bn.
Sacramento, which covers tribes active in California and Northern Nevada, was the region with the most revenue, with this amounting to $9.7bn, up 4.3% on 2018.
Washington DC – covering Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and New York – ranked third, but was the only region to see a drop in revenue, with this falling 1.3% to $7.4bn.
“Healthy tribal economies are important to promoting the tribal self-sufficiency envisioned in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act,” NIGC chairman E. Sequoyah Simermeyer said.
“The growth reflected in the 2019 gaming revenue demonstrates the strength of tribal economies in recent years. The Indian gaming industry is a vital component to many tribal economies across the country.”
However, Simermeyer noted that growth could be harmed in the 2020 financial year due to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19). The reporting period for FY19 ended before the pandemic forced the temporary closure of all commercial and tribal gaming operations in the US in mid-March.
Though many locations have since reopened, some remain closed or operate at reduced capacity.
“It is important to recognize the pandemic’s impact on tribes,” Simermeyer said. “Tribes’ dedication to a safe and sustainable Indian gaming industry is demonstrated in the preventative measures tribes continue to take during the challenging economic times brought on by the pandemic.
“This same dedication has fostered a successful and responsibly regulated Indian gaming industry over several decades.”