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Gaming revenues soared in 2019, but there’s no celebration

It was a banner year for Indian gaming revenues in 2019, but any end of year celebrating has been muted by the Covid-19 pandemic and its effect on the industry.

The National Indian Gaming Commission recently reported a record $34.6 billion in gross gaming revenues for the industry in fiscal year 2019 – a 2.5% increase over 2018. It is the highest reported revenue in the 32 years since the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was enacted, the NIGC said.

All but one of NIGC’s eight regions experienced growth. The Oklahoma City region saw the largest increase at 7.7%. The Washington, D.C., region, which includes Florida and six other states, saw a 2% decrease from 2018 to 2019.

The Seminole Tribe operates six casinos in Florida under Seminole Gaming, including its flagship Hard Rock properties in Tampa and Hollywood.

“Healthy tribal economies are important to promoting the tribal self-sufficiency envisioned in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, NIGC Chairman E. Sequoyah Simermeyer said in a statement. “The growth reflected in the 2019 gaming revenue demonstrates the strength of tribal economies in recent years.”

The reporting period for 2019s fiscal year ended before the pandemic hit and forced at least the temporary closure of every tribal gaming operation in the country beginning in March. Experts say the full effect on the industry won’t be known for some time, as many Indian gaming operations still remain closed or are operating at a reduced capacity.

However, the NIGC expects to have an idea of the pandemic’s impact when the fiscal year 2020 gaming revenue report is released in late 2021.

“While we welcome this positive report, we know that the current reality is dramatically different,” NIGC Vice Chair Kathryn Isom-Clause said in the statement. “Future reports will reflect the effects of the pandemic on the industry. Despite these current hardships, Indian gaming, like the tribal nations it benefits, has proved its resiliency over the years.”

The 2019 figure is calculated from 522 independently audited financial statements submitted to the NIGC by 245 federally recognized tribes across 29 states. An operation’s gross gaming revenue is the total amount of money wagered less any amounts paid out as prizes and before deducting operating expenses.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act created the NIGC to support tribal self-sufficiency and the integrity of Indian gaming. NIGC oversees the regulation of 527 gaming establishments operated by 247 tribes across 29 states.

More information is at nigc.gov.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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