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National Indian Gaming Commission: FY 2021 Gross Gaming Revenue Announcement
Indian gaming revenues hit record $39 billion despite COVID-19
Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The tribal casino industry has rebounded dramatically despite the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, with revenues reaching $39 billion, a record in Indian gaming history.

The National Indian Gaming Commission announced the highly-anticipated figures on Wednesday. The data shows increases across all regions of Indian Country, indicating that the unprecedented decline the came after the onset of the coronavirus more than two years ago was temporary.

“Indian gaming is doing very well,” NIGC Chair E. Sequoyah Simermeyer said in a video announcement. “You have rebounded from the industry wide challenges faced during the pandemic.”

“If fiscal year 2021 has shown anything, it is demonstrated that Indian gaming is a resilient industry,” said Simermeyer.

Following the onset of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020, every tribe shut down their gaming facilities as they sought to keep their communities and customers safe. The result was a decline of nearly 20 percent in gross gaming revenue, plummeting the industry to levels not seen in nearly a decade.

But Simermeyer and NIGC Vice Chair Jeannie Hovland said tribes quickly adjusted their operations to address health, safety and other challenges that have arisen during the ongoing pandemic. On some reservations, only recently have casinos been able to fully come back online, they pointed out.

“When taken together, these challenges, negotiating a clear path to achieving and maintaining revenue growth may seem daunting,” said Hovland.

“But it’s clear: Tribes know what is best for their communities,” Hovland noted.

National Indian Gaming Commission Fiscal Year 2021 Gross Gaming Revenue
Gross gaming revenue in fiscal year 2021 was 40 percent than the year prior, and nealry 13 percent higher than the pre-pandemic year of 2019. Image: National Indian Gaming Commission

According to the fiscal year 2021 figures, gross gaming revenue at tribal casinos increased by 40.2 percent from the year prior. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, they increased by 12.9 percent.

Some of largest percentage gains come from the regions that include the state of Oklahoma, where Simermeyer and Hovland are attending the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association’s Tradeshow and Conference. The Oklahoma City region increased by 49.9 percent while the Tulsa region grew by 46.7 percent, according to the NIGC.

Tribes in the two regions operated 144 casinos in fiscal year 2021, the largest of any of the NIGC regions. The bulk of the facilities in Oklahoma, with a handful in the neighboring states of Texas and Kansas.

Together, these regions reported more than $6.1 billion in gross gaming revenue, the NIGC results show. The figure represents a big jump from the $4.1 billion reported last year.

But the very largest gain comes from a seemingly unexpected place. Gross gaming revenue increased by 56.0 percent in the Rapid City region, home to 41 tribal casinos in the states of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

National Indian Gaming Commission Fiscal Year 2021 Gross Gaming Revenue
Gross gaming revenue figures for fiscal year 2021 are based on reports from 510 gaming facilities operated by 243 tribes in 29 states. Image: National Indian Gaming Commission

The Portland region, with 56 tribal establishments in the states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington, saw a 42.6 percent gain. Gross gaming revenue totaled $4.4 billion in fiscal year 2021, according to the NIGC.

Equally impressive was the 42 percent gain in the Sacramento region, home to 78 tribal casinos in California and Nevada. With gross gaming revenue of $11.9 billion, operations in these two states accounted for a huge share of the overall $39 billion reported by tribes.

“All regions show a year-over-year increase when compared to fiscal year 2020,” said Yvonne Lee, the chief financial officer of the NIGC, the federal agency charged with overseeing the tribal gaming industry.

While gains were considerable across Indian Country in the last year, a handful of areas have not immediately returned to pre-pandemic levels. Operations in the Phoenix, St. Paul and Rapid City regions were the only ones that fell below the levels reported in fiscal year 2019.

According to NIGC officials, the results show that not every tribe has rebounded from COVID-19 in the same way, once again highlighting the unique nature of Indian gaming.

“We noted in our comments, that from our analysis, not every region was going to have, the same rebound, and it would take more time for other regions perhaps,” Simermeyer said during a media roundtable on Wednesday afternoon.

“Our regions are determined administratively and I don’t know that necessarily says anything about those specific operations at the local level,” Simermeyer said.

Lee further pointed out that gross gaming revenue figures are based on factors, such as differences in financial reporting periods among tribes, that may not always reflect local conditions.

“Their decreases are pretty small,” Lee said of the percentage declines seen in Phoenix (down 1.8 percent, compared to fiscal year 2019), St. Paul (down 2.7 percent) and Rapid City (down 1.1 percent).

National Indian Gaming Commission Press Release [PDF]

NIGC officials also highlighted the diverse nature of the tribal gaming industry. According to the figures, 55 percent of operations reported less than $25 million at their respective facilities.

On the higher end, only 8 percent of tribes reported revenues greater than $250 million at their respective casinos. Yet these submissions accounted for 52 percent of the gross gaming revenue (GGR) in fiscal year 2021.

“With 43 gaming operations reporting GGR greater than $250 million, accounting for more than 50 percent of total revenues, this year’s revenues underscore the wide diversity — geographically, demographically and financially — in gaming operations across Indian Country,” Hovland said in the video message.

According to the NIGC data, 61 submissions reported revenues in the range of $100 million to $250 million. They accounted for 12 percent of the overall GGR figure.

In the middle range, a total of 124 submissions reported revenues in the ranges of $50 million to $100 million and of $25 million to $50 million. The 282 remaining submissions represented the $25 million and under range.

National Indian Gaming Commission Fiscal Year 2021 Gross Gaming Revenue
Image: National Indian Gaming Commission

National Indian Gaming Commission Fiscal Year 2021 Gross Gaming Revenue
Image: National Indian Gaming Commission

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