Indian Gaming Now

More on NIGC 2009 Revenue Report

Jun 16 2010
The NIGC's annual report of tribal gaming revenue indicated that the industry held steady in 2009 with $26.5 billion in revenue, down only slightly from $26.7 billion in 2008.  The report also indicates that some other features of the industry have held relatively constant.  The top revenue earners continue to dominate industry profits, with 5% of operations earning nearly 40% of total industry revenue.  These are the heavy hitters, with revenues exceeding $250 million annually.  On the other end of what we call the spectrum of success are the operations with modest-at-best profits: 55% of operations earn only 7% of the industry's total revenue.  These are casinos earning less than $25 million each year, often just enough to keep the doors open, provide jobs, and generate modest government revenue.  Out of the 419 tribal gaming operations in 2009, 71 earned less than $3 million -- that's about 17% of operations earning 0.3% of the industry revenue.  That's not the recession, that's the reality of tribal gaming in areas like North Dakota, where a number of factors constrain the profitability of a tribal casino -- location and customer base are at the top of the list of constraints.  But as we discuss at length in our first book, Indian Gaming and Tribal Sovereignty: The Casino Compromise (2005), profits shouldn't be the sole or even the primary measure of the success of a tribal casino.  Even low-earning casinos often provide sorely needed jobs and economic development in impoverished reservation communities.