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Tribal gaming contributes mightily to California’s well-being

Tribal government gaming enables Indian nations to contribute to the California economy and create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, even as the state struggles to emerge from the nationwide recession.

This is the key finding of an economic impact study commissioned by the California Nations Indian Gaming Association and conducted by Beacon Economics, measuring the impact of tribal government gaming on the state economy and on local economies that surround gaming operations. Beacon Economics surveyed both gaming and non-gaming tribes across California, including a cross section of large and small casinos in both urban and rural markets with a range of amenities including hotels, restaurants, retail establishments and entertainment venues.

Based on the analysis, Beacon Economics has concluded that tribal government operations form a powerful economic engine in California, generating $7.5 billion for the state economy.

Even throughout the economic downturn, tribal gaming is a job creator. The economic impact study finds that tribal government gaming creates over 52,000 good-paying jobs. More than 30,000 jobs are directly created by Indian gaming operations, while an additional 22,000 jobs are supported in the broader economy. For the sake of comparison, tribal government gaming supports nearly as many jobs in California as the state’s nonresidential construction (53,300), child day care services (62,800) and apparel manufacturing (56,500) industries. And it’s not just tribal members who benefit from job creation; upwards of 80% of casino employees are non-tribal members.

Tribal government gaming operations account for $2.7 billion in income for Californians and $1.4 billion in direct wages for casino workers. Tribal gaming workers earn an average salary of $33,400 – more than double the average salary ($16,000) of workers in similar fields in California. Tribal and non-tribal employees receive excellent medical, dental, and life insurance plans, as well as access to 401(k) retirement plans.

At a time when California is fighting to regain its financial footing, California tribes are generating new and badly needed tax revenues. California tribal gaming generates $467 million in tax revenues, helping to support local and state services. Non-gaming operations generate $47 million in state and local revenues.

The benefits extend beyond gaming tribes, with gaming revenues going to support non-gaming tribes and allowing them to fund a variety of essential services from education to healthcare and housing. To date, tribal government gaming has provided over $818 million in critical support to non-gaming tribes through the Revenue Sharing Trust Fund (RSTF) program.

Each year, non-gaming tribes receive up to $1.1 million from RSTF. RSTF funds are critical in helping non-gaming tribes create quality jobs and make investments that reduce their reliance on state and local government. RSTF funds have been used to support a variety of public and social services for tribal and non-tribal members.

In addition, the study finds that California’s gaming nations have taken responsibility for providing essential public safety, health and education services that support not just tribal members but also their surrounding communities. 

Indian gaming revenues support a variety of public and social services including health and dental clinics for tribal and non-tribal residents in areas where these services are not readily available. The Sycuan Fire Department, for instance, fully funded by Indian gaming, provides full-time fire and emergency services for the reservation and for the 700 square mile surrounding community.

Tribal government gaming means California dollars stay in California.  Hospitality is one of California’s fastest-growing industries. Indian gaming keeps money in California that would otherwise be spent in other states, particularly Nevada.  And tribal government gaming adds to California’s tourism draw, offering travelers an additional reason to visit California and spend their money here.

Throughout the state, California’s gaming nations are supporting the economic recovery, hiring Californians for good-paying jobs and supporting local business partners. Tribal government gaming will continue to help foster safe, healthy communities by supporting the essential services and projects that make California a better place to live for tribal members and non-members alike,  strengthening the fabric of the entire California community.

Ed’s Note: Lee Acebedo is the executive director of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association.


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