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As of June 2, 2020

Over the past few months, Americans have felt the ongoing impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  This has resulted a significant negative impact on local, regional, and national economies.

Nowhere has this impact been felt deeper than in the U.S. casino industry, where closures of casinos and their non-gaming amenities effectively shut down the entire industry across the country for roughly six weeks through May 4, 2020.  This has affected 246 tribes with over 500 gaming facilities operated in 29 states.

These closures have caused significant detriment to Native American tribes, many of which rely heavily on gaming related revenue to pay for tribal government operations, infrastructure, and social and economic programs and services for a Native American population that is already substantially disadvantaged.

Based on our long history of researching and analyzing Indian gaming over the past two decades and accumulated data from 16 years of conducting the Indian Gaming Industry Report (published by Casino City Press), our economists at Meister Economic Consulting have estimated the following six-week impacts on the U.S. economy through May 4, 2020 while tribal casinos have been closed:

  • $13.1 billion in lost economic activity;

  • 728,000 people out of work;

  • $2.9 billion in lost wages; and

  • $1.9 billion in lost taxes and revenue sharing received by federal, state, and local governments.

This includes the direct effect at tribal casinos, as well as the secondary effects on tribal governments, vendors, employees, and federal, state, and local governments.

The six-week closure impacts through May 4, 2020 directly at tribal casinos alone are estimated as follows:

  • $4.4 billion in lost economic activity (i.e., gaming and non-gaming revenue to casinos);

  • 296,000 people out of work;

  • $997 million in lost wages; and

  • $721 million in lost taxes and revenue sharing received by federal, state, and local governments.

It is noted that some of the aforementioned losses in wages and taxes were mitigated by casinos that continued to pay wages and provide benefits to employees in their early stage of closure.  However, these situations have been in flux and data are incomplete.  Conservatively, lost benefits are not factored into lost wages at all as many tribal casinos continued to provide benefits.

In the face of mounting negative impacts on tribes and the economy, some tribal casinos began re-opening during the week of April 26, 2020, and additional tribal casinos continue to open.  As of June 2, 2020, 225 tribal casinos have re-opened in 20 states (Idaho, Oklahoma, Washington, Texas, Arizona, California, North Dakota, Michigan, Florida, Minnesota, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Louisiana, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Connecticut).  While the implementation of health and safety procedures is varying to some degree across facilities, they have included:

  • Limited hours;

  • Temperature checks for employees and patrons before entry;

  • Use of masks by employees and patrons;

  • Reduced maximum occupancy of facilities;

  • Enforcement of general social distancing:

    • Limited number of gaming machines and table games in operation;

    • Added space and dividers between gaming positions; and

    • Limited number of players per table game;

  • Limited operation of non-gaming amenities (primarily food and beverage); and

  • Enhanced cleaning protocols.

As a way to assist those in need in this time of uncertainty, Meister Economic Consulting will donate to Native American charities 10% of proceeds from all coronavirus impact research and analysis.

We hope that you, your colleagues, family, and friends are safe and healthy!


Indian Gaming

Industry Report

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