Revenues from Arizona casinos inched up to $1.82 billion in 2014 for a fourth straight year of growth, both trends that mirrored tribal casinos nationwide, according to a new national report.
Casino City’s Indian Gaming Report, released Thursday, said gaming revenues at Arizona casinos grew a modest 0.6 percent, or about $11 million, from 2013 to 2014, the most recent year for which complete numbers were available.
Arizona’s $1.82 billion in gaming revenues for 2014 was the fifth-highest gross among states with Indian gaming. Those five states accounted for 62 percent of the national total gaming revenue, which was at an “all-time high” of $28.9 billion, according to the report.
“Arizona has experienced somewhat slower growth in recent years,” said Alan Meister, author of the report and principal economist at Nathan Associates.
Gaming revenue in the report was defined at the total amount wagered, minus any payouts or prizes.
Nationwide, Indian gaming saw “modest growth” of 2 percent in the same period. It attributed the increase in gaming revenues to an “improvement of U.S. and state economies” and growth in both the national GDP and per capita personal income.
The effects of an improving economy could also be seen in the state, said Amanda Jacinto, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Gaming, who said better business at the state’s casinos “showcases the economy for the entire state.”
Jacinto said over the last few years the department has seen a consistent increase in funding for Indian gaming, which has left her office “very optimistic” about the prospects for gaming in the state.
Meister attributes the slightly slower growth in Arizona partly to the economy and partly to the state’s limitations on the number of machines casinos can have, which he said creates an “artificial restriction” on growth.
At the same time, he said, many casinos in Arizona have expanded their non-gaming amenities in recent years.
“The non-gaming side is an important trend going on,” Meister said, adding that the shift toward resort amenities is part of an attempt to attract a younger audience that wants more personal interaction.
The success of the industry in Arizona allowed many casinos to complete renovations and expansions in 2014 and 2015, the report said, pointing to completed development projects at six casinos in the state in 2014 and 2015. Many of those improvements included some form of non-gambling amenities like restaurants and spas.
Chief among projects completed last year was the opening of the long-delayed Desert Diamond Casino on disputed Tohono O’odham land in Glendale. Meister said he believes the project “will be able to spur growth even though it is a developing property.”
The report said more projects are planned for this year: The Navajo Nation has plans for a casino near the Grand Canyon, while the Yavapai-Prescott Indian tribe has plans to combine its current properties, Bucky’s and Yavapai Casino, in a new facility.
By Madison Alder