Tribal Gaming Sector Suffered First Revenue Decline in a Decade in 2020

Tribal Gaming Sector Suffered First Revenue Decline in a Decade in 2020

U.S. tribal gaming segment suffered its first revenue decline in around a decade in 2020 as the devastating Covid-19 pandemic forced tribal casinos to remain closed for several months. According to fresh data released by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), tribal gaming industry suffered a year-over-year decline of 20 per cent last year. The percentage stands for a hefty loss of $6.7 billion. It was the sector’s first decline in 10 years, and the sharpest decline in 20 years.

The NIGC said that a total of 248 tribes’ 524 tribal gaming venues across 29 states of the U.S. reported combined gross gaming revenue (GGR) of $27.8 billion. The figure is significantly lower than its pre-pandemic level (2019) level of $34.6 billion.

The tribal gaming sector is one of the critical drivers of national and state economies as it accounts for nearly 45 per cent of total gaming revenue in the country. The American Gaming Association’s Jeannie Hovland noted that the pandemic led to decrease in gross gaming revenues in all eight administrative regions of the country.

Commenting on the stats, Hovland said, “Unfortunately, due to the COVID pandemic, all eight administrative regions reported a decline in their gross gaming revenues. While this was not necessarily surprising news due to the impact the pandemic has had on our communities, we’re grateful the reported decline in revenues was not more severe.”

Hovland expressed his views at the recently held Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Conference. He also noted that nearly 95 per cent of tribal gaming venues are once again up and running, with clear signs that some of them were hit harder by the pandemic than others. While tribes in Nevada suffered the smallest decline (13.2 per cent) in revenues, the South Dakota reported the biggest (36.6 per cent) decline.

NIGC Commissioner Sequoyah Simermeyer, who was also present at the conference, added that investments made by the tribal gaming operators over the years provided hope for the sector’s strong return in the future.

The list of major tribal gaming investments includes Connecticut-based Mohegan Tribe’s foray into the Las Vegas casino industry. This federally-recognized tribe launched the Mohegan Sun Casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. In May this year, Southern California’s San Manuel Band of Mission Indians signed an agreement with Red Rock Resorts to purchase the Palms resort in a deal worth $650 million.