Tribal gaming has taken hits along with the rest of the gaming industry, but it has weathered the storm better than the commercial sector, while maintaining its future investment commitments to business and community, said Knute Knudson, vice president at IGT. 

“Tribal gaming has consistently held its own, better than commercial gaming,” said Knudson. “The locals-oriented nature of their locations meant that customers didn’t have to get in an airplane to visit. Replacement cycles have generally been marginally better. There are obvious exceptions, but markets like California, Arizona and the west coast have held their own. Tribal gaming has also expanded; older properties have evolved and upgraded. You also have new compacts being approved; at least three in California pending currently, for instance. Indian country remains a dynamic, growing place. It’s not like the early days, but the footprint continues to grow, and it’s a market that remains willing to experiment with products and be on the leading edge of new product adaptation.”

Knudson said that tribes have “overwhelmingly” made good investment decisions. “There are some exceptions and some properties that had the misfortune of opening during the downturn, but most, by and large, have made good investments and haven’t exceeded the capability of their organizations to sustain debt,” he said. “They have reserved capital to expand while at the same time meeting their tribal needs and reinvesting back into their communities. They haven’t lost sight of the fact that tribal gaming is about serving governments and taking care of people on and off the reservation.”

Knudson called social gaming, which IGT serves through its DoubleDown Casino Partner Program, the fastest growing segment of the interactive space. About half of the 40 customers that have signed on to the program are in the tribal sector, including Casino del Sol in Arizona, the first DoubleDown partner in the country and a “premier” operator in terms of how it is leveraging the technology.

“Double Down has met all the metrics that we expected. In fact, our revenue per customer, the total number of customer visits per day, and the total number of customer visits per month are all growing beyond our expectations,” said Knudson. “Many of these tribal customers are in locations that are not close to urban areas. So the Internet helps them market beyond their immediate geographic area. It gives them a window to attract customers in the larger, interactive space and to market to their specific brick-and-mortar space.  The acceptance of Double Down in Indian country has been excellent; we are doing multiple presentations at the trade show.”