2020 was a brutal year for almost every part of the US gambling market, including the world of Indian Gaming. According to a recent data drop from the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), gross gaming revenue was down about 20 percent in the annus horribilis, though some tribes suffered more losses than others. But NIGC executives are expressing optimism about the future of Indian gaming in the pandemic and, hopefully, the post-pandemic world.
According to the NIGC, Indian gaming interest brought in $27.8 billion in revenue during 2020. That’s down 19.5 percent from 2019’s $34.6 billion in revenue.
Of course some of NIGC’s regions suffered more than others, and some NIGC regions suffered tremendously. On the lower end was the heavily populated Sacramento Region, which includes California and Nevada where they pulled in $8.4 billion for a decline of 13.4 percent from the previous. On the high end was the sparsely populated Rapid City region, which includes Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming, with$238 million in revenue and a decrease of 36.6% from 2019.
NIGC Chairman E. Sequoyah Simermeyer expressed optimism about 2021’s numbers and the resilience of Indian gaming in a statement posted on the NIGC website saying, “This Gross Gaming Revenue decrease was expected; the unknown was just how much of an impact COVID-19 had on Indian gaming. Every year, the annual GGR figure tells a story about Indian gaming’s successes, contributions to Indian communities, and economic impacts. This was highlighted even more during the pandemic. Nevertheless, tribes were on the forefront of creating standards, developing new safety protocols, and sharing community resources. I foresee this decrease as only a temporary setback for Indian gaming.”
The NIGC represents 248 federally recognized tribes which collectively generate 524 individually audited financial statement across 29 states.