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Lagging economy hits tribal gaming, its revenue to Arizona

The lagging economy is hitting tribal gaming in Arizona, but the industry here still ranks high among states for revenue, a top Indian gaming official said.

For the third consecutive quarter, tribes gave less money to the state than they did during the same period last year.

Still, Arizona ranks fourth in the nation for gaming revenue, said Sheila Morago, executive director of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association.

Only Connecticut, California and Oklahoma had more tribal gaming revenue last fiscal year, she said.

Tribes gave $25 million to the state in the three months ending Sept. 30, down from $27.6 million a year ago.

“While it’s down, it is $25 million,” Morago said.

It’s the third consecutive quarterly year-over-year decline for state revenue from gaming, which started flowing in 2003 under the Arizona-Tribal Gaming Compact. The first quarter of 2008 logged the first-ever decline.

As the economy falters, so does gamblers’ willingness to spend, Milago said.

“We rely solely on disposable income,” she said.

Since the compact was passed, tribes have given more than $471 million to towns, cities, counties and the state for wildlife conservation, tourism, problem gambling education and treatment, among other things.

The money comes from revenue generated by Class III gambling that includes slot machines, jackpot poker, blackjack, keno and off-track pari-mutuel betting in 23 casinos.

The state does not break down the contributions by tribe.


The state distributed its July-September revenue from tribal gaming to:

• Instructional Improvement Fund/Education, $12.4 million

• Trauma and Emergency Services Fund, $6.2 million

• Arizona Department of Gaming operations, $2.2 million

• Arizona Wildlife Conservation Fund, $1.8 million

• State Tourism Fund, $1.8 million

• Problem gambling education, treatment and prevention, $500,000



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