Tribal gaming is a segment of the American gambling market that doesn’t always get a lot of attention. Aside from Foxwoods and a few other very large operations, most Indian casinos operate somewhat out of the public’s view, despite being legal and licensed operations. But despite its low profile, tribal gaming has been going absolutely gangbusters for the past few years.
According to a new report from the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC),revenue at Indian casinos in the United States was at its absolute peak in 2018 with a collective revenue intake of $33.5 billion. That number is spread across 501 casinos representing 241 federally recognized tribes who reside in 29 states.
2018’s impressive numbers represent a 4.15 percent increase over the previous reporting year. (Though it’s worth noting that there were six more Indian-run casinos operating in 2018 than in 2017.) Oddly enough, tribal gaming operations have seen revenue boosts in the range of four percent for the last two reporting years and a five percent boost in 2015.
Tribal gaming has its widest representation in California and northern Nevada (known as the Sacramento Region to the NIGC) where 73 Indian casinos clocked in $9.28 billion, an increase of 3.1 percent over the previous year. In the Rapid City region, which includes North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana, tribal casinos saw only a modest 1.5 percent increase. (It’s worth noting that this region includes some of the least populous spots in the entire United States.)
The success of tribal gaming should not obscure the fact that life on America’s Indian reservations is still very hard and that casino gaming is one of the few industries that has been successfully planted in Indian Country.