Tribal Gaming Industry Shows Signs of Growth

  • The National Indian Gaming Commission announced last week that Indian Gaming revenues for fiscal year 2016 reached $32.2 billion
  • The new record surpassed FY2015 revenues by 4.4%

Tribal gaming regulators at the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) announced last week that total FY 2016 revenues of tribally-owned casinos in the United States surpassed $30 billion for the first time ever.

tribe revenue

However, to many in the space, the news was not entirely a surprise: “[The] growth in tribal gaming revenues really shows the health of the industry,” said Eric Geisler who heads business development at Sage Mountain Construction, a Native American-owned construction company that focuses on the tribal gaming and hospitality industries.

Reaching new heights

Geisler, also a tribal member of the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians, a non-gaming tribe, noted that “many tribal casinos in Southern California are undergoing major expansions to their property,” and that “many are beginning to take steps toward becoming more of an integrated resort—offering more amenities for their guests besides just gaming.”

But the trend is not restricted to Southern California nor is it universal across Indian Country. In fact, one region measured by the NIGC’s saw growth that could not even keep up with inflation for the same period—seeing a tepid 1.1% growth in revenues.

Conversely, some tribes are reaching new heights—building bigger, better and faster. Casinopedia reviewed some of this year’s biggest construction projects with Geisler:

1: The Mohegan Tribe announced last month that it would break ground on a 20-year, $5 billion resort project in South Korea by year-end. This is in addition to their July announcement to commit to build a $200-$600 million entertainment, sports and residential resort in Connecticut. The tribe also recently announced that it would spend a modest $80 million to add a convention center to its casino (which earned the spot as #1 Best Casino in the United States for 2017.)

2: The Tohono O’odham Nation announced in July that it would begin a $400 million construction project to expand its sprung structure casino near Phoenix, Arizona.

3: The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians topped off a $285 million hotel expansion to it’s Pechanga Resort and Casino. This property recently earned the spot as #3 Best Casino in the United States.

4: Sycuan Casino and Resort has already begun construction of it’s $226 million hotel and resort. In addition to a 12,000 square foot ballroom, the Southern California casino will build a pool and lazy river to compliment the 300-room hotel.

5: The Pala Casino Spa and Resort (also in Southern California) announced in July that it would begin a $170 million expansion to essentially remodel the entire property.

The growth in tribal gaming is good news says Geisler because “the ability for tribal gaming operations to expand their facilities, goes in turn to provide and create more sustainable jobs for the surrounding communities, as well as help contribute to the tribal infrastructure—allowing tribes to fulfill their right to self-determination, self-governance, self-reliance—exercising their tribal sovereignty.”

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