One of the arguments constantly used against tribes looking to launch casino gaming is that the benefits derived from such enterprises tend to enrich the sponsoring tribal entities but do very little to boost regional or state economies. Two recent studies of tribal gaming in Arizona and California go a long way toward dispelling this misconception however; using economic data to show tribal gaming is a good bet for the entire regional community.
The California study, sponsored by the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) and conducted last year by Beacon Economics, a Los Angeles-based independent economic research firm, surveyed gaming and non-gaming tribes across the state, including a cross section of large and small casinos in urban and rural markets with a range of amenities including hotels, restaurants, retail establishments and entertainment venues. Among the results:
• Tribal gaming generates billions of dollars for California’s economy. In 2010 alone, $7.5 billion in economic activity was supported by Indian gaming operations. Of that amount, more than half ($3.9 billion) was generated outside of direct spending from the gaming operations. That means that businesses throughout California’s economy-the vast majority of which are non-tribal-are being buoyed by tribal gaming.
• California tribal gaming creates thousands of jobs and billions in income for Californians. Tribal government gaming is an increasingly important pillar of job creation in California, supporting more than 52,000 good-paying jobs across the state and generating over $2.7 billion in income. The study estimates that upwards of 80 percent of casino employees are non-tribal members, and finds that many tribal gaming jobs are filled by lower-skilled workers, those hurt most by the economic downturn.
• Tribal gaming generates millions in revenues supporting essential local and state services. According to the study, tribal government gaming operations generate $467 million in state and local revenues, and nongaming operations provide an additional $47 million in state and local revenues.
• Tribal government gaming has provided millions in critical support to non-gaming tribes. Revenue generated by tribal gaming provides essential support to non-gaming tribes, funding a range of services including education, health care, and housing. Non-gaming tribes receive up to $1.1 million annually from the Revenue Sharing Trust Fund. To date, the analysis shows that $818 million has been distributed to help reduce the reliance of non-gaming tribes on state and local governments.
• California gaming tribes foster safe and healthy communities, active philanthropic giving. Many California gaming tribes sponsor police and fire departments to relieve strained county officials and protect tribal and nontribal community members, according to the report. Tribal gaming revenues also support local health and dental clinics for tribal and non-tribal residents in critical areas where these services are not readily available. The study also reports that gaming tribes often serve as the most important sources of philanthropic giving in their surrounding communities.
“California tribes made a promise to California voters: we promised we would provide for our people and land as governments, we would provide jobs for our people and our neighbors, we would be good neighbors sharing responsibility for services like fire and police and environmental protection, as well as supporting non-profits and public entities that contribute to the quality of life in our regions,” said Daniel J. Tucker, chairman of CNIGA, last August when this study was released. “This is our first report card, and I am proud of it. We have done well for our people, our neighbors, local and state governments and California taxpayers, as well as providing financial assistance for 71 other tribes to assist them in building a foundation for economic independence.”
SHARED RESOURCESMeanwhile a study of tribal gaming in Arizona commissioned by the Arizona Indian Gaming Association (AIGA) and conducted by the Taylor Policy Group, a Florida-based economic consultancy, also revealed gaming’s substantial local and regional economic impact. Since its inception in 2002, Arizona tribal gaming has contributed $820 million directly to the state and local treasuries, which has been allocated in some of the following ways:
• $356.4 million to the state’s Instructional Improvement Fund;
• $178.2 million to the state’s Trauma and Emergency Services Fund;
• $93.6 million contributed directly to local com-munities;
• $50.9 million to the state’s tourism fund to promote Arizona; and
• $50.9 million to Arizona’s Wildlife Conservation Fund.
In additional, Arizona casinos directly employed 15,187 Arizona workers in their casinos and allied hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues in 2011. Indirect employment also accounted for an additional 6,800 jobs. This level of employment is almost double the amount of employment the tribes’ casino operations had a dozen years ago. Tribal gaming is currently the sixth largest employer by sector in the state.
“Indian gaming contributes directly to rural economic development in Arizona,” said Valerie Spicer, executive director of AIGA, in a prepared statement. “It produces jobs, attracts tourism and brings investment to areas that have historically had depressed economies.”