Happy Thanksgiving from GGB; Newsletter Returns December 4

Most Gaming Companies See Tribes as Best Bet

Gaming companies that once were known for casinos in Las Vegas have found that their best route for expansion currently is through Indian gaming.

Because no new casino development is seen happening in Las Vegas at the moment and other commercial expansion is unlikely, most gaming developers are betting on Indian gaming, which currently has 460 casinos in 28 states.

That explains the recent deal between Penn National Gaming and the Jamul Village Indian Tribe in San Diego County, California to develop a $360 million casino despite the fact that the small tribe has been battering its head against a wall for a decade against intense opposition to get regulatory approval. It signed its state tribal gaming compact in 1999.

Penn, with 29 casinos in the U.S. sees Jamul and the Hollywood Casino Jamul as a virgin market. According to Penn’s CEO Jay Snowden, quoted by  the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “We love the location and it’s a new way for us to cultivate a whole new set of customers.” The Jamul casino will be Penn’s first Indian casino, although it will be on a tiny six-acre parcel.

Penn is also working on a casino at the Zia Park Racetrack in New Mexico.

Other big gaming players who are taking advantage of Indian gaming are Station Casinos, which manages two Indian casinos and recently inked a deal for a third, Caesars Entertainment, which manages three Indian casinos in three states that all participate in the company’s Total Rewards marketing program.

The Golden State, with its 68 tribal casinos and prospects for quite a few more, is the largest Indian gaming market, actually the largest gaming market, period, accounting for almost $7 billion annually.

By contrast, the last casino built in Las Vegas was four years ago, although construction on the $2 billion Resorts World Las Vegas is seen as likely to begin later this year.

The most recent jurisdiction to legalize casino gaming, Massachusetts, still is in the process of choosing which developers to license.