Potawatomi Tribe Experiences a Decline in Bingo Revenues

Years ago the Seminole tribe in Florida introduced the first Native American gaming operation. The tribe opened a huge bingo hall on their reservation and made millions. Other tribes across the country followed suit and tribal gaming has alleviated poverty on many reservations. Mots tribal gaming operations generate hundreds of millions annually and in most cases the tribes pay no taxes because of their status as sovereign nations. Last year the Potawatomi Bingo Casino took in nearly $368 million from players last year.

Recently the tribe warned that overall revenues could fall by $150 million annually if the federal government and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker allow the Menominee tribe to open a casino near Kenosha. In an 81-page critique of a Menominee filing with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs the Potawatomi tribe stated “The estimate includes a reduction in gaming, food and beverage and other minor operating departmental revenues at Potawatomi Bingo Casino.” Research has shown that about 805 of a casino’s overall revenue is generated by the amount gamblers lose at a casino.

Industry analysts say that the flat casino performance and the Potawatomi tribe’s efforts to block competition by the Menominee tribe are consistent with national trends. Bill Eadington, director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada-Reno. Said that “Tribal solidarity is now more symbolic than real.” He went on to say that it is not surprising to see attempts to block any competition. Eadington said “Companies have been doing it for years.” Since the casino industry is experiencing tough times defensive actions by casinos are more important than ever.

In Las Vegas business has been declining. In June gaming revenue fell 6% compared with June 2011. Tough times in the casino industry have hit many tribal gaming operations in several states. Members of the Lac Courte Oreilles tribal government said that the tribe will have to tighten its belt because of a decline in gaming revenues. In 2006, the Lac Courte Oreilles casino generated $6 million for the tribe but revenues fell by $2 million dollars this year. Tribal leaders said in a letter to tribal members that said that the tribe has a “serious financial burden.” The letter goes on to say “The tribe is near bankruptcy and to do nothing is not an option.”

The Menominee casino application was approved by the Obama administration after being rejected by the Bush administration. In the meantime the Potawatomi tribe is lobbying against the new casino.

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