National Indian gaming on the rise, report says

Slot machines in a casino lined up in a row.

WINDOW ROCK

Revenue to the 244 federally recognized tribes that have Indian gaming is on the rise, according to a report issued Monday by the National Indian Gaming Commission.

The commission reported that the casinos in 2016 reported gross earnings of $31.2 billion, an increase of about 4.4 percent over 2015.

These figures show gross revenues, not gross profits. Tribal governments had to pay salaries, interest on loans and shared revenue under state compacts from this $31.2 billion.

But Jonodev Chaudhuri, chairman of the commission, said this shows that the Indian gaming industry as a whole is healthy and growing.

It’s difficult to compute how much of that $31.2 billion came from the casino operations on the Navajo Reservation since, like other tribes, the Navajo Nation does not release any information about casino revenue or profits.

Since the Navajo Nation is required to share its revenues from slot machines with the state of New Mexico, there are some figures available that give a hint of what the tribe is taking in.

In 2016, the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise reported slot winnings (that is the amount taken in minus the payoffs to winning players) for Fire Rock in Church Rock and Northern Edge in Fruitland to be $84.5 million.

Out of this, the tribe had to pay salaries and other costs to run the casino so profits were lower. But it does show that the two casinos are doing well since the 2016 was some $800,000 higher than the $83.2 million it reported in 2015.

The total revenue for these two casinos is actually higher since the state figures do not include other forms of gaming at the casinos, such as blackjack. It also does not include the revenue from casino revenues.

That figure also does not include the revenue from the Flowing Waters Navajo Casino in Hogback. That a Class 2 casino so those revenues are not shared with the state.

As for Twin Arrows, Arizona does not have the same reporting system so there is no indication of how much revenue Twin Arrows is bringing in.

Statements from Navajo gaming officials during the past several months indicate that while the casinos in New Mexico are showing a profit each year, Twin Arrows continues to struggle because of the $220 million it owes to the tribe for the cost of constructing the casino and resort hotel.

At the end of 2016, gaming officials said Twin Arrows continues to bring in enough to pay its operating costs and interest on the loan but is still unable to pay down the principal.

While some tribes with casinos receive millions of dollars annually from their casino operations to use for tribal services, the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise has only turned over $6 million in profits to the tribe and that was several years ago.


 To read the full article, pick up your copy of the Navajo Times at your nearest newsstand Thursday mornings!

  Find newsstand locations at this link.



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