Saturday, February 24, 2018
Business

Florida's Indian gaming increases slightly

Indian casinos in Florida pulled in about $2.1 billion in 2010, reflecting a 1 percent increase from the previous year.

That growth was much slower than in 2008 and 2009, when Las Vegas-style gaming tables and slot machines were introduced in Florida, according to the 2012 Indian Gaming Industry Report.

Florida was still ranked as the fourth-richest state for tribal gambling in 2010, behind California, Oklahoma and Connecticut.

Alan Meister, author of the report, which was released today, said the slowdown in Florida's revenue growth was not unusual. After periods of rapid expansion, spikes in growth usually start to level off, he said.

Nationally, revenue growth in Indian casinos grew about 1 percent as well, after experiencing a first-ever decrease, 1 percent, in 2009. Of the 28 states that have Indian gaming, 19 experienced positive revenue growth in 2010.

In light of the recession, Meister said, any amount of revenue growth is a good thing, and he predicts the industry will continue to grow as the economy improves.

"I think that once you get past this economic climate that is holding things back and that we're only slowly recovering from, I think that demand (for gaming) will improve," Meister said.

Gary Bitner, spokesman for the Seminole Tribe, which owns seven of the state's eight Indian casinos, said the tribe has made some recent expansions at its casinos across the state that he expects will lead to increased revenues.

Those changes were made after 2010, he pointed out, so they were not reflected in this year's report.

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa is undergoing a $75 million expansion that will be completed in June, making it one of the largest casinos in the country. It will include more space for gaming tables and slot machines, as well as a new parking garage.

The Seminole Tribe has also made some expansions at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek and the Seminole Casino Immokalee, Bitner said.

Although non-Indian gaming facilities such as card rooms and racinos (combination casinos and race tracks) are gaining in popularity, Meister said, it is too early to tell how Indian casinos will compete with them.

A plan to build three $2 billion, non-Indian mega casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward counties was defeated in the Florida Legislature earlier this year, but the issue is expected to come up again.

Because the plan was rejected, Bitner said he could not comment on how those casinos would affect the Seminoles' revenues. Rather than worrying about other casinos, he said, the Seminoles look at the entire entertainment industry as competition, from movie theaters to restaurants to shopping malls.

"You really have to look at the competition as more than just other slot machine operators," Bitner said.

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