Indian Gaming Remains Strong

Despite the tough economic headwinds since 2008, the tribal gaming industry has remained strong and the outlook for the future looks positive. NIGA issued its 2013 Indian Gaming Economic Impact Report at our annual tradeshow in San Diego. The revenue numbers are up slightly for the 2013 economic year and Indian gaming remains strong in certain regions of the country such as Oklahoma and Florida. Our report demonstrates the central role Indian gaming is playing in many local economies. Several billion dollars are generated for local businesses that invest in capital costs, operations and maintenance, security and surveillance items, goods and services, etc. The bulk of Indian gaming revenue continues to be reinvested into the tribal governments to pay for education, health care, police and fire protection, housing, water and sewer service, transportation, government infrastructure and community development. As an industry, Indian gaming is strong and ready to help spur this country to a new era in economic expansion.

The Success of Indian Gaming Has Been a Long Journey
The economic indicators for Indian gaming have remained strong since 2008, an incredible achievement by our tribal governments and industry leaders given that the commercial industry has experienced revenue declines of 40 percent or more. However, the unique history of Indian gaming has contributed to its long-term success. We must always remember that Indian tribes are sovereign and independent nations and exercised their own regulatory authority long before European settlers came upon what became known as the Americas. Upon their arrival, the nations of England, France and Spain all acknowledged the sovereignty of Native nations as well as the economic and military power of tribes. The Cabazon decision and IGRA’s passage in 1988 are modern day acknowledgements of those early treaties with tribal governments to maintain the peace and, most importantly, to establish a means of trade and commerce.

Today economic development, in many cases through the power of Indian gaming, has brought great changes to Indian country and our neighbors. Thanks to revenue provided by tribal governmental gaming, Indian tribes are able to bridge the gap in the federal government’s unmet treaty promises. Indian tribes kept the promises they made, ceding millions of acres of land to the United States, but the federal government has never fully met its obligations to Indian people. This is part of the history of Indian people. Across decades and across generations we have learned to survive by making do with little or nothing. Throughout the tough times we have continued to survive and we have always emerged stronger than before. Working through challenging circumstances has been a regular and constant part of life for Indian people, so working through tough economic times, like the recent recession, is not new to us.

In 1979, the Seminole Tribe of Florida was the first tribal government to authorize and regulate gaming under tribal laws. The Morongo and Cabazon bands of Mission Indians, the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, along with many others, followed their example and began to operate gaming on their own reservations. All found that tribal governmental gaming could generate some of the revenue needed to provide for their communities. From these beginnings, tribal leaders engaged in Indian gaming, based on the same sovereign authority exercised by their ancestors that predated the U.S. Constitution and which was acknowledged in that document. In 1987, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the inherent authority of tribes to engage in governmental gaming in what we know as California v. Cabazon/Morongo Bands of Mission Indians. Each operated a small bingo parlor on their reservation lands. The Supreme Court held that the State of California could not enforce its regulations onto tribal lands and the outcome was a huge and historic victory for Indian tribes and for tribal sovereignty.

In 1984, a group of tribal leaders came together because they knew that the growing Native gaming industry was under attack and was going to need a strong voice on Capitol Hill. From this group, the National Indian Gaming Association was formed to provide that voice, to educate people about the industry and to ensure that tribal governmental gaming was done right. Among those early visionary leaders were Chairman Bill Houle (Fond du Lac Band), NIGA’s first Chairman, Purcell Powless, my uncle and the first vice chairman of NIGA (Oneida of Wisconsin), Josephine Jackson (Saginaw Chippewa Tribe), James Billie (Seminole Tribe of Florida), Stan Jones (Tulalip Tribes), Rocco Knight (Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation), Fred Thomas Sr., (Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas) and Merlin Red Cloud (Ho-Chunk Nation), some of whom have since passed on. Thanks to their early leadership, NIGA has been here to fight for and protect tribal sovereignty and the right of tribes to pursue economic development on our homelands.

Job Creation by Tribal Gaming
Nationwide Indian gaming continues to contribute tax revenues, purchasing power, expansion development and jobs throughout the U.S. where Indian casinos operate. Furthermore, as was the intention of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, Indian gaming has saved federal, state and local taxpayers and governments from being required to fund hundreds of millions of dollars for unemployment and other income or food subsidies, for direct aid to tribal entities and for education.

In 2013, there were 245 tribal governments operating 445 gaming facilities in 28 states. In these facilities, management actively oversees 356,316 slot machines; 6,181 table games; 1,772 poker tables; 73,729 bingo seats; 42,890 hotel rooms; 1,295 restaurants; 399 entertainment venues; and 375,958 parking spaces. This all contributed to help Indian gaming grow to $28.6 billion in gambling revenues and $3.5 billion in ancillary revenues for a total of $32.1 billion in total revenues. The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) reported $27.9 billion in gambling revenues in 2012. This represents a 2.5 percent increase from the previous year, when compared to what Johns & Associates has estimated for the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) in 2013.

Direct employment at tribal casinos continues to account for just more than 300,000 jobs at an impressive 307,599 jobs nationwide. Direct jobs are merely the beginning of the positive economic impacts created by Indian gaming. Tribal casino employment spending has also generated over 78,000 indirect jobs. When you include the billions of dollars of purchases of goods and services by these tribal casinos and their governments from allocations they receive in the form of transfer payments, an additional 237,356 indirect jobs have been created in the U.S. economy. An additional 20,166 indirect jobs are also generated from the revenue sharing agreements tribes have with their state governments as they spend it on needed government services. Capital expansion and replacement projects by tribal casinos have added another 14,230 jobs.
As a job generator in the U.S. economy, Indian gaming successfully contributed just over 665,000 direct and indirect jobs. And in an economy that is still, by most nationwide measures, not producing enough good jobs for the needs of our workers, strong growth and good management by Indian gaming has proven to be part of the solution to the nations slow economic recovery.

Indian Gaming Reduces Burden on State, Federal Government and Taxpayers
As most know, when people are employed and businesses are growing revenues and hiring people, the burden on local, state and federal programs to help the unemployed and the individuals suffering from economic hardships is lessened significantly. And to this end, the business development and growth by Indian gaming has saved our governments and their taxpayers more than $3.3 billion in aid payments such as unemployment benefits that would have been paid out if Indian gaming did not exist.

Also contributing to lessening the burden on state taxpayers, Indian gaming has paid more than $2.4 billion dollars in several categories of state taxes and more than $1.5 billion in the form of revenue sharing agreements. On the federal side, Indian gaming has contributed more than $6.3 billion dollars in federal employment taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes. This positive business growth and success once again shows clearly that with good management and successful growing economic sectors like Indian gaming, the U.S. economy is better positioned to rebound and start growing again.

As a testament to the strength and resiliency of Native people, our industry continued to grow during the last year despite the tough economic times. As many industries struggled to break even in 2012, tribal governmental gaming showed a 2.3 percent increase. As noted above, the development of Indian gaming was a true exercise of Native self-determination. It was our idea, and it has flourished. Given the opportunity to compete fairly in the marketplace tribes have shown that they can and will succeed. As tribes continue to diversify our economies, expanding in areas far away from gaming, we will continue to succeed as long as we are provided an equal opportunity to compete.

Thanks in part to the vision of tribal leaders that established NIGA nearly 30 years ago, today Indian tribes have a strong voice in Washington, D.C. Tribes have become active in both local and national elections and the Native vote was a critical component in a number of races during the November 2012 elections. Indian people are thriving today and gaming has been an important part of that success. As an organization, NIGA will continue to fight to protect tribal sovereignty and the strength and integrity of our industry. We do this with a very powerful consensus of community, a community that does not stop at the reservation boundaries. Yes, it is about providing for our communities, but Indian gaming has proven that when you have an economic engine that runs well, everybody wins.

In review of 2013, Indian gaming is back to showing it can maintain year over year growth, as long as the overall U.S. economy continues to improve. Starting in 2011 through 2013, Indian gaming revenues have shown positive growth with record breaking year growth for the past three years. In 2011, Indian casino revenues jumped to $27.2 billion for an all-time high, which saw a 2.5 percent increase from the previous year. For 2012, according to NIGC, Indian gaming revenues grew again to an all-time high of $27.9 billion, which represents another industry high and accounting for a 2.7 percent growth increase. In 2013, Indian casino revenues are trending into new highs again, which saw it jump 2.5 percent from 2012 and settle at $28.6 billion. Impressive, considering the industry closed 2003 at $16.8 billion. In those 10 years the industry has grown more than 70 percent in overall gaming revenues.

In the current period, tribal gaming generated significant economic activity which has an overall economic output of $64 billion. This represents an economic output of $20.8 billion on the Indian reservations, where their gaming enterprises are located and an economic output of $43.2 billion off the reservation. As Indian gaming succeeds, it will continue to contribute billions of dollars to local, state and federal treasuries, reducing the burden on taxpayers and providing jobs to hundreds of thousands of United States citizens.

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