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Indian gaming industry grows to $23 billion business



Source: National Indian Gaming Commission
The Indian gaming industry continues to grow by leaps and bounds, according to figures released on Tuesday.

Revenues at the 400-plus tribal casinos across the nation brought in $22.6 billion in 2005, the National Indian Gaming Commission reported. The figures represent an increase of 16 percent from 2004 and a 35 percent increase from 2005.

"Throughout Indian Country needs that would not otherwise be met by tribal governments are now being funded by tribal gaming revenues," said Phil Hogen, the chairman of the NIGC, a federal agency. "Likewise, communities located near the over 400 tribal gaming operations which generate this revenue, share in this prosperity, that was largely unknown prior to the enactment of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act."

The biggest winners were tribes and communities in California. Revenues in Region II, which includes a handful of facilities in Nevada, hit $7.0 billion, up from $1.7 billion just five years ago.

Coming in second was Region VI, covering several Southern and Eastern states. Thanks to two lucrative casinos in Connecticut, revenues there reached $5.5 billion, up from $3.4 billion in 2000.

Ranked third was Region IV, a vast area that includes the Plains and the Midwest. The revenues in this area almost hit $4 billion, up from $3.1 billion five years ago.

And although revenues in the region that includes Oklahoma weren't as high as other parts of the country, the figures show a dramatic increase. Thanks to a large boost in the number of gaming facilities, revenues in Region V were $1.7 billion in 2005, up from a mere $399,000 in 2000.

Based on historical data provided by the NIGC, the tribal casino industry grew by 315 percent in just the last 10 years -- from $5.5 million in 1995 and 215 facilities to the $23 billion and 391 facilities today.

The NIGC's figures are in line with independent Indian Gaming Industry Report that was released last month. Compiled by Alan Meister of the Analysis Group, the report showed tribal gaming at $22.7 billion in 2005.

Unlike the NIGC data, the Indian Gaming Industry Report breaks down the revenues by state. Oklahoma tribes brought in $1.4 billion at the casinos, Meister said in his analysis.

Although the Indian gaming industry is healthy, tribal leaders are worried about new developments that could affect their bottom line. Legislation being debated in Congress and new regulations being considered by NIGC seek to place limits on the expansion of tribal casinos.

Legislation pending in the House and Senate would outright block or curb the acquisition of new land for casinos. The Senate bill also makes changes to the way tribes handle business contracts for their casinos.

Meanwhile, NIGC has proposed two new rules that affect gaming in states like Oklahoma, where most forms of Class III gaming are illegal. Tribes in these states depend on Class II games, such as bingo, but the rules would limit the use of technology.

Relevant Links:
National Indian Gaming Commission - http://www.nigc.gov
National Indian Gaming Association - http://www.indiangaming.org