Indian gaming revenues dip 3 percent in California

Indian gaming in California fell about 3 percent in 2010, but there are signs of a turnaround, according to a new report on the state's 66 tribal casinos.

The casinos raked in $6.8 billion, more than a quarter of all revenue from Indian gaming in the United States.

But California's take fell almost $200 million from 2009, as the sluggish economy made it hard for casinos to attract players.

"Disposable income was down," said Alan Meister, an economist with Nathan Associates who tracks the Indian gaming industry. "But when the economy recovers, we will see consumer confidence come back."

The economy's impact in 2010 was less than it was in 2009, when California tribal casinos saw revenues fall 5 percent, he said.

The 2010 data is the most recent available from tribes, regulatory agencies and industry groups. Based on limited reports from last year, the industry's bottom line continues to improve, Meister said.

"The short-term to mid-term future outlook for Indian gaming looks promising," his report concludes.

Revenue at River Rock Casino, Sonoma County's only tribal gaming establishment, rose 3 percent to $31.3 million for the quarter ended Sept. 30. River Rock, which is owned and operated by the Dry Creek tribe of Pomo Indians, hasn't reported its 2011 full-year results.

Most California tribes put casino expansion and new casinos on hold during the economic downturn, Meister said. "It was difficult for that to happen because of the tight credit market," he said.

Last year, the state's only new casino was launched by a North Coast tribe, the Manchester-Point Arena Pomo Indians. Garcia River Casino opened last April.

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