Land casinos operated by US tribal entities showed revenue growth of around 5 percent in 2007, significantly slower than in years past but still outpacing that achieved by Nevada casinos in a declining economy, according to statistics from the National Indian Gaming Commission released this week.
 
Quoting from the NIGC statement, Associated Press reported that Indian casinos took in about $26 billion in gambling revenue in 2007, up from $24.9 billion in 2006. By comparison, Nevada casinos took in $12.85 billion in gambling revenue last year, up 1.8 percent from the year before.
 
"The continued growth is significant considering recent economic struggles throughout the country," said commission Chairman Philip Hogen. "Indian gaming continues to be an important factor in local economies."
 
The nearly 5 percent increase in 2007 marked the first time in more than a decade that tribal gambling did not enjoy double-digit growth from one year to the next.
 
Growth was fastest in the area of the country that the National Indian Gaming Commission calls Region V – Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. That region had 20 percent growth from $2.1 billion in 2006 to $2.6 billion in 2007. The increase was largely due to growth in Oklahoma, which approved Nevada-style games at Indian casinos several years ago that are continuing to expand.
 
Region II, consisting of California and northern Nevada, saw only 1.6 percent growth, but still recorded the highest revenue of NIGC's six regions. Indian casino revenue in the region grew from $7.7 billion in 2006 to $7.8 billion in 2007.
 
The tribes aren't required to report their profits, and most do not disclose that information, and it is therefore difficult to ascertain the net income of the tribes.
 
The industry's growth has been explosive since Congress created the legal framework for it in 1988 with passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The law lets Indian tribes, with the consent of a state's governor, run slot machines and other profitable games on their reservations not allowed elsewhere in the state, reports Associated Press.
 
The year it passed the industry's revenue was just about $200 million; it stood at $11 billion by 2000.
 
The soft US economy is one factor in the slower growth in 2007. In addition, fewer big casinos came online than in years past, when major casinos seemed to spring up overnight in California and elsewhere. Many of the tribes that have the ability to build casinos with Nevada-style games have already done so.
 
There are now 423 Indian gambling operations in the country, operated by 225 tribes in 28 states, according to the National Indian Gaming Association. These include scores of smaller bingo halls in addition to big casinos with slot machines.
 
NIGC officials expect to see more strength in next year's revenue report, because Florida recently approved Nevada-style tribal gambling, and California voters approved a major expansion of Indian gambling in their state earlier this year that is not reflected in the NIGC report.