October 17, 2017
By Aaron Stanley
In just 30 years, tribal gaming has grown from virtual non-existence into an economic powerhouse in the United States, accounting for $96.6 billion in total economic output and 635,000 full time jobs.
That’s according to a new study commissioned by the American Gaming Association and authored by Alan Meister, widely considered to be the leading authority on the economics of tribal gaming.
Additionally, the study found that tribal gaming generates $33.2 billion in annual wages and $16 billion in taxes and direct payments to governments that are used to fund public services at the state and local level and support reservation communities.
“Since the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in 1988, tribal gaming has grown 300-fold from a $121 million segment of the U.S. gaming industry, consisting of small bingo halls and gaming facilities, to a $30 billion-plus segment in 28 states,” the report states.
“Casino gaming is a strong community partner throughout Oklahoma and across the 40 states where our industry operates,” said Geoff Freeman, president and chief executive officer of the AGA. “As tribal and commercial operators continue to work together, our industry will continue to grow in the years to come.”
The report was unveiled Tuesday morning in Oklahoma City at the latest stop on the AGA’s American Gaming Small Business Jobs tour. The event featured two of the state’s members of Congress as well as representatives from Oklahoma’s flourishing tribal gaming industry, which is comprised of 126 gaming facilities operated by 31 different tribes.
Markwayne Mullin, a congressman who represents the state’s second congressional district, heralded the efforts of gaming tribes in his district to make a positive impact on local communities – stories, he reckoned, that are unfortunately not told as frequently as they should be.
“I’ll be the first one to tell you, I didn’t know about it. I didn’t understand how much they were investing in our communities until I got into office,” he said.
According to the report, tribal gaming in Oklahoma has generated $8.7 billion in economic output, 66,000 jobs, $3.6 billion in wages, and $2.2 billion in tax revenues and direct payments to state and local governments.
“[Gaming] is a significant driver of economic activity, particularly in areas in the state where economic opportunity is difficult to find right now,” said Russell Evans, executive director of the Stevens C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute at Oklahoma State University.
“It’s estimated that casino operations and related activities in Oklahoma generate, just as a first layer of business-to-business impacts, $593 million,” Evans continued. “Those economic activities, of course form, an important tax base generating nearly $33m in income taxes for the state.”
Aside from California, the most populous state in the country, Oklahoma has the largest state tribal gaming economy in the U.S., the report finds.
The next largest states, by economic output, include Florida at $5.7 billion, Washington at $5 billion and Arizona at $4.5 billion.