Following a one-year slide, gaming revenues produced by the nation's Indian casino market grew 1.3 percent in 2010 to $26.73 billion, the highest single-year figure ever produced by the segment of the American gambling industry.
The increase came about despite a 2.5 percent decrease in gaming revenues in California, the nation's largest Indian gaming state, and a 4 percent decline in Connecticut, the third-largest producer of Indian gaming revenues.
"The positives were that you had smaller states carrying more weight and that balanced things out," said Irvine, Calif., economist Alan Meister, the author of the Indian Gaming Industry Report produced by Casino City Press. The 10th-annual look at Indian gaming numbers, facts and figures, is being released today.
The numbers cover 2010 because its takes Meister a year to gather the results. State-by-state tribal gaming revenues are not released to the public on a monthly basis as they are for the commercial casino industry.
Meister found that 2010 turned into a rebound year for Indian gaming overall after revenues fell 1 percent in 2009, the first year gaming declined in the Indian market. From 1989 through 2006, Indian gaming typically reported double-digit year-over-year gaming revenue increases.
"In the wake of the Great Recession, Indian gaming, like much of the U.S. economy, showed signs of recovery in 2010," Meister wrote in the report's executive summary.
In an interview Monday, Meister said the continued declines in California and Connecticut were offset by marked increases from Oklahoma, up 3.9 percent, and Washington, which reported a 7.5 percent gaming revenue increase.
Other smaller markets, such as Alabama, Texas and Alaska, which have a combined seven casinos, were part of a group that grew revenues 12.8 percent.
Oklahoma, which has 33 tribes and 113 casinos -- the most in any state -- passed Connecticut's two casinos in terms of revenues in 2008, three years after the state's tribes began using Las Vegas-style slot machines and added live poker rooms.
Oklahoma tribes added two casinos in 2010 while New Mexico, Mississippi and Minnesota each added one, offsetting the elimination of three casinos in Arizona.
According to the report, 239 tribes in 28 states operated 448 casinos in 2010.
Meister said he expects Oklahoma, which reported $3.22 billion in gaming revenues in 2010, to continue its climb past Connecticut, which has fallen from $2.4 billion in gaming revenues in 2008 to $2.14 billion in 2010, mainly because of increased competition from commercial casinos and tribal gaming in neighboring states.
Meister said both Florida ($2.06 billion in 2010) and Washington ($2.03 billion) could surpass Connecticut in 2011.
The top five Indian gaming revenue producing states accounted for about 61 percent of the nation's total Indian gaming revenues.
California, which has fallen from a high of $7.34 billion in 2008 to $6.78 billion in 2010, accounted for 25 percent of the Indian gaming market. Meister said the economy was the largest negative factor affecting the California gaming market, although the 2010 decline was half that of 2009.
Florida, which signed a new compact with the Seminole Indians in 2010, experienced its largest revenue growth in the preceding years when the tribe began adding Las Vegas-style slot machines to its Hard Rock and Seminole branded casinos.
Florida, Meister said, experienced a less than 1 percent increase in Indian gaming revenues in 2010 because of an expansion in racetrack casinos.
During 2010, the combined gaming and nongaming output from Indian gaming facilities was more than $28.6 billion. The tribes supported 306,000 jobs and $12.6 billion in wages during the calendar year.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.