Tribal Gaming Hits $27.9 Billion Revenue Record in 2012

Dave Palermo

American Indian casino revenues reached a record $27.9bn in 2012, the third consecutive year the industry has experienced growth since the recession of 2008/2009, according to audited figures released Tuesday by federal regulators.

The figures represent a 2.7 percent increase over the previous year.

“For those who judge casino spending as an indicator of increased discretionary spending and economic recovery, 2012 revenues certainly display economic encouragement,” Tracie Stevens, chairwoman of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), said in a media conference call.

The figures “indicate a strong and mature Indian gaming industry,” Stevens said, with growth in all seven NIGC regions, particularly the upper Midwest and Great Plains and Oklahoma.

Stevens attributed the increase to expansion, increased patronage and “much needed regulatory reform.” The NIGC under the President Obama administration has been streamlining regulations.

NIGC director of finance Yvonne Lee said the figures are based on audits of 425 gambling operations by 234 tribes. The NIGC press release put the number of tribes at 237.

The NIGC figures and a more detailed annual industry report by economist Alan Meister of Nathan Associates are the most quoted indicators of the tribal gambling industry sector.

Tribal gaming has been growing at a 3 percent annual rate since the recession, Lee said.

Sixty-six percent of the tribal operations experienced revenue growth, with 44 percent of those facilities showing moderate growth of less than 10 percent, Lee said.

The largest regional revenue increase of $233m — a 5.1 percent over 2011 — occurred in NIGC’s St. Paul Region, which includes 120 operations across nine states.

The largest percentage increase of 6.6 percent, or $125m, occurred in the Tulsa Region, which consists of 64 operations in Kansas and East Oklahoma.

The Sacramento Region, which includes California and Northern Nevada, grew 0.8 percent to $7bn.

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