National Indian Gaming Commission Chairman (NIGC) Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri, Vice Chair Kathryn Isom-Clause and Associate Commissioner Sequoyah Simermeyer all had reason to smile during a recent press conference announcing the latest gross gaming revenue (GGR) figures generated by tribal casinos throughout the U.S.
According to a report issued by NIGC, the Indian gaming marketplace turned $32.4 billion in GGR for fiscal year (FY) 2017, a record as well as a 3.9 percent increase over FY2016 results. In addition to posting a new high-water GGR mark in FY2017, the sector recorded its seventh consecutive year of GGR growth; culminating in an overall GGR increase of 22 percent since 2010.
The region with the highest 2017 GGR mark was Sacramento, which is comprised of 74 tribal gaming operations in California and northern Nevada that produced $9 billion GGR, a 7.3 percent increase over FY2016. The Washington, D.C region came in second, with 37 tribal operations in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and New York generating $7.3 billion in 2017 GGR, followed by the St. Paul region (92 facilities in Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin/$4.6 billion); the Portland region (52 properties in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington/$3.4 billion); the Phoenix region (59 facilities in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and southern Nevada/$3 billion); the Tulsa region (72 properties in Kansas and eastern Oklahoma/$2.4 billion) and the Oklahoma City region (69 gaming operations in western Oklahoma and Texas/$2.3 billion). The only region that reported negative 2017 GGR results was Rapid City and its 39 tribal operations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming, which generated $363,257, a 2.7 percent decrease over FY2016 GGR.
The FY 2017 revenues were calculated from the independently audited financial statements of 494 gaming operations, owned by 242 federally recognized tribes, according to press materials. The GGR for an operation is the amount wagered minus winnings returned to players. It represents earnings before salaries, tribal-state compacts and operating expenses.
MORE THAN NUMBERS
The annual announcement of GGR numbers for Indian Country provides a yearly snapshot of the economic health of Indian gaming. As 2018 marks the 30th year of gaming under IGRA, the NIGC believes it is an opportune time to reflect on key policy principles that have helped create the successes of a healthy Indian gaming industry. These policies include:
- The preservation of the role of tribes as the primary regulators and beneficiaries of their operations;
- Recognition and utilization of Congress’s stated intent and IGRA’s built-in flexibility to promote technological innovation, such as the use of electronic aids in Class II gaming;
- Faithful application of the law that accounts for the unique histories and land-bases of tribes and IGRA’s built-in flexibility to allow Indian gaming on a variety of different types of Indian lands; and
- The primacy of the nation-to-nation relationship between tribes and the federal government and tribes, one that predates the U.S. Constitution.
The consistent year-after-year growth of the Indian gaming industry shows how well tribes run and regulate complicated operations. By staying in its regulatory lane and supporting tribes as the primary regulators, the NIGC has supported the Indian gaming industry’s entrepreneurial spirit and self-determination goals.
“All of Indian Country has worked very hard to maintain a flourishing and constantly growing gaming industry,” Chaudhuri said. “The successes of Indian gaming in the 30 years since IGRA prove that the foundational principles of federal Indian law should remain at the forefront of any future public policy discussions.”
For more information on the 2017 GGR report and theNIGC, visit www.nigc.gov