Tribal Casinos Endure 19.5% Revenue Decrease During 2020

Tribal Casinos Endure 19.5% Revenue Decrease During 2020
By Jim Tomlin

Revenues at casinos on tribal lands experienced a big drop in the 2020 fiscal year, as expected during a period when the facilities faced challenges related to COVID-19.

A year after 2019’s banner performance, when tribal casinos set a record by pulling in $34.6 billion in revenue, those same casinos drew $27.8 billion in 2020, according to figures from the National Indian Gaming Commission.

The figures, released Tuesday, indicated that the 524 gaming establishments under the NIGC’s banner were directly impacted by coronavirus-related closures and other measures meant to slow the halt of the disease in the midst of a pandemic.

”This Gross Gaming Revenue decrease was expected; the unknown was just how much of an impact COVID-19 had on Indian gaming,” NIGC Chairman E. Sequoyah Simermeyer said in a news release. “Every year, the annual GGR figure tells a story about Indian gaming’s successes, contributions to Indian communities, and economic impacts. This was highlighted even more during the pandemic.

“Nevertheless, tribes were on the forefront of creating standards, developing new safety protocols, and sharing community resources. I foresee this decrease as only a temporary setback for Indian gaming.”

The release said that the Rapid City Region took the most dramatic hit, with a 36.6% decrease in revenue for 2020 compared to 2019.

2020 Breaks Streak of Record Revenue Years

The 2020 figures ended a streak stretching more than a decade – a streak in which casinos on tribal lands set collective records annually. The record 2019 total was a 2.5% increase compared to 2018 when the casinos combined to earn $33.7 billion in revenue.

Starting in the 2010 fiscal year, when Indian casinos combined for $26.5 billion in revenue, the facilities exceeded that each year, first surpassing $30 billion in 2016.

The $27.8 billion in revenue for 2020 was the lowest total for the tribal casinos since they drew $27.2 billion in 2011.

”Despite the limits and uncertainty of the last year, it is important to focus on the sacrifices of and economic refuge provided by tribes and the community impacts,” NIGC Vice-Chair Jeannie Hovland said. “Tribal gaming has shown resilience and commitment, and continues to develop new roads to economic stability. I look forward to seeing Indian gaming continue to lead the way in efforts to reduce the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Check out our guide to the top US casinos for more information.



Jim Tomlin has more than 30 years of experience in sports journalism as an editor and writer. He has covered pro and college sports from football, baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, motorsports and more for publications such as the Tampa Bay Times,, and FanRag Sports. He now lends his expertise to, among other duties.

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