Tag Archives: Indian gaming

Top 5: Arizona Casinos - Experience AZ Fall-Winter 2012

Senators Urged to Preserve Future of Indian Gaming in Arizona

Congress has the power to intervene in a growing national practice and problem of ‘off-reservation gaming,’ or ‘reservation-shopping.’ The topic was at the heart of an oversight hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs today, titled, “Indian Gaming: The Next 25 Years,” and included discussion of H.R. 1410—the bi-partisan bill to solve the problem faced by the city of Glendale in Arizona, that will protect the integrity of Indian Gaming in the state, but would also be a beacon to cities and towns across the U.S. that find themselves in similar circumstances.

A prelude to a vote on H.R. 1410 by the U.S. Senate, today’s hearing included testimony from Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC) President, Diane Enos and City of Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers, excerpts from their testimony follow, full transcripts can be found at www.indian.senate.gov.

SRPMIC President, Diane Enos opened her remarks, by saying, “For over 20 years Arizona Indian Gaming has been stable, predictable, and successful. However, sadly, its future in Arizona does not look good. It is threatened by the actions of one tribe. H.R. 1410, the ”Keep the Promise Act,” which is pending before the Committee, will help protect Indian gaming in Arizona. We respectfully urge the Committee to pass it.”

SRPMIC President explained to the Senators that private non-Indian gaming companies were always hovering over Arizona looking for an opportunity, a loophole, to overthrow Indian Gaming exclusivity, but that today, that exclusivity, and the current Indian Gaming compacts were jeopardized from within, by the Tohono O’odham Nation:

“This plan by the Tohono O’odham of building an additional casino in the Phoenix-metro area directly violates promises that they made, that other Arizona tribes made, and that the Governor of Arizona made to citizens who approved our compacts in November 2002,” stated Enos. In 2002, then-Governor Jane D. Hull announced that the compacts she and 17 tribes had negotiated for two and a half years – if approved by the voters – would ensure there would be “no additional casinos allowed in the Phoenix metropolitan area”. This promise of “no additional casinos in the Phoenix-metro area” was made by Tribes and the Governor over and over to the voters, Enos said, “because we believed it.”

City of Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers addressed the powerlessness of local government in this situation, saying, “Our choice was not ideal: continue to fight and hope for action from this body, or give in to this casino being forced on us. It is frustrating to be a city of our size and have no voice on a casino proposed by a tribal government more than a hundred miles away.”

Weiers also spoke up about what this means for other cities, “Our sister cities know that unless Congress acts, they may be next. There are over 200 other county islands in the Phoenix metropolitan area. And the Tohono O’odham Nation attorneys have said the Tribe has the right to close its existing three casinos and open them on these county islands. We are a test case, but it is the start of a very slippery slope. If Congress does not act, the entire Phoenix area should be prepared for more off-reservation casinos.”

New Construction on Vee Quiva Casino

Casino revenues grow faster than national rate

Indian gaming revenue in Arizona grew by 3 percent in 2012, even though no new facilities came online and the number of games in the state actually declined that year.

The numbers were included in a recent report by Casino City Press, which said revenue at Arizona’s 22 tribal casinos grew by about $50 million, from almost $1.75 billion in 2011 to $1.8 billion in 2012.

That was a faster growth rate than the average for the nation, where tribal casinos saw a 2 percent increase in revenues, rising $500 million to $28.1 billion in 2012. Arizona was sixth among states for overall revenues in tribal casinos and 14th for the rate of growth, the report said.

Calls to the Arizona Indian Gaming Association and to several tribes with gaming facilitates in the state were not returned. But other experts pointed to several possible factors behind the increase.

Bob Ellsworth, an instructor for gaming management at the University of Nevada, Reno, said it could be that “the head count … either that has increased or … how much each player spends – puts at risk – has gone up. Or it’s a combination of both.”

Ellsworth said those changes could have led to the decrease in the number of games: From 2011 to 2012, the number of machines in Arizona tribal casinos fell by 1.4 percent, and the number of table games fell nearly 5 percent.

Rick Medina, assistant director at Arizona Department of Gaming, said the 15 tribes that manage casinos in the state may have cut less-popular games to focus on those where players were risking more money.

“Every square foot of their establishment is … important to them,” Medina said. “Casinos don’t want to have games on the floor that people aren’t playing.”

Ellsworth said the number of people playing one machine or table game will affect revenue, since the number of wins per unit per day tends to drive up the amount of money players bet at that unit.

Casinos are also replacing some machines with “multidenomination machines” that let players change the amount of money they play, Ellsworth said.

“For example, a video poker machine could be played as a 5-cent machine, a quarter machine or a dollar machine,” he said. “The casino can offer multiple-denomination games with less machines on the floor.”

Alan Meister, an economist with Nathan Associates Inc. and author of the Casino City Press report, said casinos might also be able to increase revenue while cutting the number of games by offering more multiplayer than single-player games.

Medina said confidentiality agreements between the state and the casinos prohibit him from releasing details on exact reasons behind the higher revenue.

Whatever the reason, more money for the casinos means more money for the state. Medina said a casino pays the state 1 to 8 percent of its revenue, on a scale based on the facility’s revenue in a given year.

In 2012, tribal casinos contributed $84.9 million toward the state budget, according to the governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting.

Medina said the tribes plan to announce next week that this summer they expect to reach $1 billion in contributions to the state budget, stretching back to the approval of tribal casinos in 2003.