n California, where tribal casinos compete with Northern Nevada resorts, revenues fell 5 percent.
The declines from 2008 to 2009, the latest year available, were part of a larger trend influenced by recession, said Alan Meister, the economist who wrote the report. Nevada gaming experts agreed.
“It reflects the continuing issue of recession, and California has been hit pretty dramatically,” said Bill Eadington, director of the Institute of Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno.
That includes two tribal casinos in California’s Sierra foothills on direct routes to Reno-Tahoe: Thunder Valley off of Interstate 80 and Red Hawk along U.S. Highway 50.
The latest annual figures for Nevada gaming revenues show flat growth statewide in 2010 from 2009, with a 4.3 % decline in Washoe County and a 6.3 % drop at Stateline on Lake Tahoe’s south shore.
Meister’s report showed casinos generated about US$ 26.4 billion in 2009. In addition, revenue from food and beverages, lodging, entertainment and shopping declined 4 percent to US$ 3.2 billion in 2009 at the more than 200 Indian tribes that operated nearly 450 casinos in 28 states.
Gambling revenue has declined steadily from 15 % in 2005, he said. Before the start of the recession, the sagging gambling revenue was due to public policies intended to restrict Indian gambling, such as legislation and regulations, court decisions and tribal-state agreements.
Commercial casino gambling revenue declined even more, falling 8 %, to US$ 27.6 billion in 2009 from US$ 30 billion the previous year. Meister said in an interview that Indian casinos generally performed better than their commercial counterparts because Indian casino markets are newer and have room for more development, he said.
Revenue from Indian casino gambling was greatest in California in 2009, amounting to US$ 6.9 billion. The state accounted for more than 26 % of Indian gambling revenue nationwide. However, revenue declined in Indian casinos in California 2009 by about 5 %.
Revenue grew the most in 2009 at Indian casinos in Alabama, Alaska, Nebraska and Wyoming, the report said. Growth was due to expanded facilities or new ones replacing others. The slowest revenue growth was in Arizona, Connecticut, Iowa and Mississippi. “People thought casinos were recession proof,” he said. “Starting in 2008, we learned it’s not recession proof.”