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Cy Ryan

Indian Gaming on the Rise, Except in Nevada

7 July 2004

CARSON CITY -- Indian gambling expanded in every state where it was legal last year, except in Nevada.

And the growth of gross win of tribal casinos far outpaced the percentage increase for commercial gambling.

Alan Meister, a manager of financial consulting firm Analysis Group, released his third annual report today on the status of Indian gambling that generated $16.2 billion last year in gross win, an increase of 12 percent. There were 222 tribes operating 356 gaming facilities in 30 states.

Commercial casinos posted $26.2 billion in gross revenue, up 1.4 percent from 2002. Gross revenue in Nevada casinos rose by 1.9 percent to $9.6 billion.

Meister, of Los Angeles, said Nevada is still the top grossing state, totaling more than 21 percent of the nationwide casino gaming industry.

"As Indian gaming continues its strong and steady growth, it creates more competition for commercial casinos and racinos," Meister said. Racinos are racetracks with slot machines.

In Nevada, the report said the three Indian gaming sites generated $44 million in gross revenue, down 2.3 percent. Non-gaming revenue at the Indian locations in Nevada fell from $4.9 million to $4.8 million in 2003.

The three Indian gaming locations in Nevada are Avi Resort & Casino in Laughlin operated by the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe; the Moapa Tribal Casino at the Valley of Fire operated by the Moapa Paiutes; and the Snow Mountain Smoke Shop in Las Vegas run by the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe.

The report said the decrease in gaming revenue in Nevada may have been due to increased competition from California tribal gaming. The number of slot machines at the three casino locations fell from 948 in 2002 to 941 in 2003 and the number of table games decreased from 24 to 20 in the year-to-year comparison.

Overall the report said there are several factors for the rapid growth of Indian gambling nationwide. They include the social acceptability of gaming remaining strong; an increase in the number of gaming locations; and an expansion of the types of slot machines and table games offered. Hotels, restaurants and entertainment were expanded at the tribal locations and many players showed a preference for going to a closer location rather than traveling.

Tribes in every state, except Nevada, paid something to state and local government. In California for instance, the Indian locations contributed $131.9 million. Connecticut tribes contributed $396.4 million to either state or local governments.

The report said the tribes employ 240,000 workers and pay $7.9 billion in wages.

Meister noted that Las Vegas-based commercial operators such as Harrah's Entertainment Inc., Station Casinos Inc. and Caesars Entertainment Inc. have joined in the management and development of the tribal industry.

Meister, an economist, sees the continued growth of Indian gambling but there are "ifs."

For instance, he said there's a question on the election ballot to allow slot machines at card rooms and racetracks in California. If that passed, it would have a negative impact on tribal casinos in California, which has the nation's highest gross Indian gaming win that reached an estimated $4.2 billion in 2003.