National Indian Gaming Commission reports strong growth in tribal industry

The Cabazon Band of Mission Indians owns and operates the Fantasy Springs Casino Resort in Indio, California. Photo from Facebook

The tribal casino industry grew to $29.9 billion in 2015, the National Indian Gaming Commission reported on Tuesday.

The figure represented a 5 percent gain from the year prior. That marked the strongest rate of growth Indian Country has seen in a decade, according to the federal agency charged with regulating the industry.

"Thanks to strong regulation, the gross gaming revenue is the highest it's ever been, showing the biggest increase nationwide in the last 10 years," Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri, who serves as chairman of the NIGC, said during a press conference on the homelands of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians in California.

"Now let me say that again: the biggest increase in 10 years," said Chaudhuri, a citizen of the Muscogee Nation.

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: National Indian Gaming Commission Press Conference July 19, 2016

Every region of Indian Country in fact saw growth in 2015. That's a marked change from years prior in which some areas experienced declines or stagnation.

The largest gain was seen in the NIGC's Sacramento region, which includes California and northern Nevada. Tribes there saw an 8.0 percent increase in revenues in 2015, according to the agency, almost double the 4.4 percent seen a year prior.

Similar signs of progress were seen elsewhere in Indian Country. Revenues in the Tulsa region, which includes Kansas and eastern Oklahoma, grew 6.5 percent in 2015, far higher than the 1.8 percent from the prior year.

And two regions marks a dramatic turnaround. Tribes in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and southern Nevada saw a 3.7 percent gain last year. In 2014, revenues had fallen 1.1 percent.

YouTube: NIGC Gross Gaming Revenue Press Conference 2016

Tribes in the large region that includes the Midwest and the Great Plains saw their revenues grow by 3.3 percent. That's a huge improvement from the 1.5 percent loss experienced in 2014.

Finally, revenues in western Oklahoma and Texas increased 6.7 percent in 2015. While that was the second-highest rate behind Sacramento, it was actually smaller than the 7.5 percent gain that tribes there saw the year prior.

"The industry's growth last year represents the first time since 2012 that there has been annual growth in every region's gross gaming revenue," said E. Sequoyah Simermeyer, a member of the Coharie Tribe who serves as an associate commissioner at the agency.

Overall, tribes operated 474 gaming facilities in 2015, up from 459 in 2014. New casinos came online in every region except Oklahoma City. In the Tulsa region, only one new facility opened, according to the NIGC's figures.

In terms of actual revenues, the Sacramento region boasted the highest, with the 71 facilities there generating $7.9 billion. The 31 operations in the region that includes Connecticut, New York, Florida and tribes in the Southeast, generated $7.0 billion in 2015, according to the NIGC.

Tribal gaming revenues in 2014 were $28.5 billion, the NIGC reported last summer.

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