Indian Gaming Industry Report - NAPT Opportunities
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK – The 2009-2010 “Indian Gaming Industry Report,” which analyzes the recent performance of Indian gaming, shows that the industry did manage a slight increase in revenue despite the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
The eighth edition report, authored by Alan Meister, an economist with Nathan Associates Inc. of Irvine, Calif., analyzes data for calendar year 2008, the most recent available, and also assesses the contribution of Indian gaming to the U.S. economy.
Nationally, Indian gaming experienced its slowest annual growth in its reported history during 2008. Revenue grew by 1.5 percent, with $26.8 billion generated, compared with $26.4 billion in 2007. Non-gaming revenue at Indian casinos increased to $3.2 billion – up 3 percent from the $3.1 billion generated in 2007.
Meister said the slowdown can be attributed in part to the general downturn in the U.S. economy, but that public policies designed to restrict the supply of Indian gaming, including tribal-state gaming compacts, also have contributed.
In calendar year 2008, there were 442 gaming facilities operated by 237 tribes in 28 states. California still led the nation in terms of revenue generated.
“Indian gaming continued to gain ground and may overtake the commercial casino segment in the near future,” Meister said. In 2008, it generated 43 percent of all U.S. casino gaming revenue, though commercial casinos still led the way.
Among the 22 Class III gaming facilities in New Mexico, there was an 18 percent increase in the number of slot machines – from 13,460 in 2007 to 15,819 in 2008 – and an 11 percent increase in the number of table games, from 284 to 314. The increase in supply of games came largely from newly opened facilities.
Revenue for New Mexico increased slightly, by 1 percent, to approximately $799 million in 2008. Meister said the slight growth came despite the declining performance of the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino, owned by the Mescalero Apache Tribe, which defaulted on its bond payments in 2009.
He cited several developments that may lead to future growth, including the opening of the Navajo Nation's Fire Rock Casino in November 2008 and its expansion in March 2009; the expansion of Pueblo of Laguna's Route 66 Casino in January 2008; the expansion of Isleta Casino & Resort in July 2008; and the August 2008 opening of Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino in Santa Fe by the Pueblo of Pojoaque.
Meister's study mentions that in New Mexico, Navajo is planning a Class II gaming facility in Shiprock and a Class III gaming facility with a hotel near Farmington.
“We have had the opportunity to select locations that are unique and I think the locations we have selected on behalf of the Navajo Nation have the potential to meet the expectations that we believe are possible, Bob Winter, CEO of Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, said Wednesday.
“We base those on financial feasibility studies. Some were done two years ago, but to reassure ourselves, we had recent studies done again on those locations and they were done by a separate company to make sure that we have objectivity. They confirmed the potential success of the locations that we selected. We're trying to get appropriate funding for the locations.”
In Arizona, gaming revenue declined 6 percent from $2 billion in 2007 to $1.9 billion in 2008 – down from the 5 percent growth in 2007 and 13 percent growth in 2006.
However, there have been several new developments in Arizona that could have a potential positive impact, according to Meister. Under existing compacts, most tribes became eligible to increase the total number of games they can operate.
In addition, there are several new gaming developments on the table. The Navajo Nation has plans for casinos in Leupp and Navajo, Ariz.; the San Juan Southen Paiute has a pending application before the Bureau of Indian Affairs to place land in Bellmont into trust for gaming purposes; and the Tohono O'odham Nation has a pending application with BIA to place land in Maricopa County into trust for a 1.2 million-square-foot resort casino complex.
In the short term, Indian gaming growth is expected to be minimal due to the state of the economy, but is expected to pick up in the mid-term, Meister said. While future market conditions look good, the long-term outlook is uncertain due to potential market and non-market factors, including legal challenges, legislation and regulations aimed at limiting Indian gaming expansion.
Winter said he believes 2010 will be a good year for Navajo. “Of course you don't have a crystal ball, but we're assuming that the economy either stays as it is or hopefully gets better. We're also making sure that we're not going to overbuild.
“Many of the mistakes that are made, not only in Indian Country but in commercial markets, have been overbuilding – building to expectations that due to the economy were not real. We have the advantage of coming in at a time when we make sure that what we build, we can pay for,” he said.
It is estimated that Indian gaming generated 712,000 jobs, $10.8 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue, and $1.6 billion in direct payments to federal, state and local governments.
or Alan P. Meister, firstname.lastname@example.org
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