TAMPA — Indian gaming in Florida is big and getting bigger, though not as fast as it was a few years ago.
Florida remains the No. 3 state in revenues from Indian gaming, with $2.56 billion in 2016, according to an economist who tracks nationwide trends, slot machine-by-slot machine, in tribe-run gaming.
During 2016, the most recent year for which data are available, Indian gaming nationwide grew by a solid 3.9 percent with a record $31.5 billion in total revenues, California economist Alan Meister reported Wednesday in his annual Casino City’s Indian Gaming Industry Report.
It was the seventh straight year of revenue growth since the Great Recession. That said, it was slightly lower than the industry’s 5.2 percent growth in 2015, likely because of a general slowing in the national economy, Meister said.
That said, Indian gaming still grew faster than commercial casinos and racetrack casinos, securing nearly 45 percent of the gaming market nationwide and making tribe-run facilities the largest segment of the market.
Meanwhile, other, non-gambling revenue at Indian gaming businesses grew 8.2 percent to an all-time high of $4.2 billion.
Among states, Florida’s $2.56 billion in gaming revenue for 2016 trailed only California ($8.4 billion) and Oklahoma ($4.4 billion).
In revenue growth, however, Florida ranked No. 18 in 2016, with an increase of just 4/10ths of a percent — a significant slowdown from the previous year’s 7.3 percent.
Meanwhile, growth of non-gaming revenues was faster than the national total, said Meister, who described both changes as "very pronounced" when compared to the general trends.
Looking ahead, Meister said there’s a significant degree of uncertainty for tribe-run casinos, "given the mix of economic, industry, legal, regulatory, and political challenges facing Indian gaming, especially under the Trump administration."
But he said, the opportunities for growth include the replacement, expansion and remodeling of existing facilities — something happening in a big way at Tampa’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, the biggest casino in the state.
The Seminole Hard Rock’s $700 million expansion in Tampa is adding a 15-story tower, 200,000 square feet of gaming space, and a 200-seat Italian restaurant.
The expanded Tampa casino and hotel are expected to open in mid-2019, with a total of 5,000 slot machines, nearly 200 gaming tables, 800 hotel rooms, 88 suites, 6,000 parking spaces and more than 4,500 full- and part-time employees.
The Seminole Tribe’s expansions of their gaming facilities are likely to help their performance, Meister said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.
On the other hand, he said, "card rooms have continued to encroach on the banked table games offered by the Seminole Tribe, thus having a negative impact."
Another wildcard: the various, recurring and so-far-unsuccessful efforts to expand casino gambling in Florida. In November, voters will consider Amendment 3, largely backed by Disney and the Seminole Tribe, to make such expansions harder by requiring voter approval for any form of casino gambling, something now largely controlled by the Legislature.
Expanded casino gaming "would likely have a negative impact on the tribe," Meister said, "depending on the scale, scope and location of the new gaming."
Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times