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GAMING: Study says tribal gaming generates $8 billion for state


Published: May 05, 2014; 03:16 PM

Indian tribes that have been historically reluctant to divulge information about their gaming operations may be warming to the idea of more transparency in a bid to shine a positive light on their growing importance to the state’s economy.

A study released Monday, May 5, by the California Nations Indian Gaming Association nonprofit group showed tribal gaming in California generated $8 billion in economic output in 2012, an uptick of 7.2 percent compared to 2010 data. Non-tribal gaming operations – hotels, spas, entertainment venues – generated another $2.3 billion in 2012, putting the combined operations over the $10 billion mark.

The study was put together by Los Angeles-based Beacon Economics from survey data supplied by almost one-third of the state’s tribes with casinos. The three local tribes of the 17 total that participated were the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and Cabazon Band of Mission Indians in Riverside County and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in San Bernardino County.

The inaugural study that looked at 2010 data was assembled with surveys from around 13 tribes, Christopher Thornberg, Beacon’s founding partner, said on a conference call Monday morning.

“I hope as we continue to move forward they see the value and they will be comfortable providing this information,” said Thornberg, who already is looking ahead to tweaking the study next time to make it more valuable to the association’s 34 members.

For instance, Thornberg said, he’d like to study how tribal casinos complement areas that have wineries, such as Santa Barbara or Temecula, or add to the value of areas with other types of tourism draws, such as theme parks.

“It’s important,” he said, talking about how these “linkages” could boost the overall economic output number. “Maybe you wouldn’t go just for wine-tasting or just for gaming but together you would go.”

Sherif Hanna, a Beacon managing partner, said Monday afternoon that invitations to participate in the survey were sent to all of the state’s tribes.

“CNIGA wants to be as inclusive as possible,” Hanna said.

“Economic output” in the context of the study includes the money paid to employees; expenditures by casinos on equipment, entertainment and food; security and utilities. The study did not look at the revenues and profits generated by the various casinos and it didn’t cover any potential negative impacts associated with large-scale gaming operations, the type of information that generally is featured in environmental impact reports.

“It’s very focused on what the industry of tribal gaming does,” said Cheryl Schmitt, director of Stand Up For California, a nonprofit organization that serves as a sort of Indian gaming watchdog. “It’s not a study that looks at what are the impacts to the surrounding areas or the impacts to the state.”

Schmitt said there would be no reason for the tribes to commission that sort of study, because, if they did, it would show there is a clear social economic loss that occurs when new Indian lands are created and removed from the state’s regulatory framework.

Contact Aaron Claverie at 951-369-9698 or

BIG NUMBERS$8 billion, economic output generated in 2012 by tribal gaming operations in the state $2.3 billion, economic output generated in 2012 by tribal non-gaming operations (hotels, spas, golf courses) 56,093, jobs supported by tribal gaming in 2012, up 7.4 percent since 2012 (32,400 direct jobs) $505.7 million, state and local taxes paid in 2012.

(SOURCE: Beacon Economics)

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