Commercial And Tribal Casinos Produced $78.2 Billion In 2019

The US casino industry generated some eye-popping revenue numbers in 2019. According to data released by the American Gaming Association (AGA) and the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), the commercial and tribal casino industries generated $43.6 billion and $34.6 billion, respectively.

And those numbers don’t include lottery sales (over $91 billion in 2019) or money wagered at racetracks and other non-casino gambling venues.

Commercial Casino Industry Sets a New High-Water Mark

The $43.6 billion generated by the commercial casino industry is an all-time high and a 4.1% increase compared to 2018.

“The results from 2019 reflect the continued mainstreaming of casino gaming and increased access to legal, regulated gaming options for Americans all across the country,” said Bill Miller, AGA president, and CEO. “Today’s economic realities were hard to imagine even a few short months ago as, ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was shaping up to continue this trend of remarkable growth for the industry.”

The commercial casino industry has spread to 25 states and encompasses 465 casino properties.

Tribal Gaming Also Set a New Revenue Record

Tribal gaming’s $34.6 billion revenue tally is also a new record and a 2.5% year-over-year increase.

“Heathy tribal economies are important to promoting the tribal self-sufficiency envisioned in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The growth reflected in the 2019 gaming revenue demonstrates the strength of tribal economies in recent years,” said NIGC Chairman E. Sequoyah Simermeyer, “The Indian gaming industry is a vital component to many tribal economies across the country.”

The NIGC report comes from financial statements from 245 gaming tribes that operate 522 tribal casinos in 29 US states.

2020 Outlook Isn’t as Rosy

COVID-19 has taken its toll on the casino industry. Every single one of the nearly 1,000 tribal and commercial casinos closed their doors at some point in 2020 and have otherwise dealt with severe capacity and social distancing restrictions.

According to the latest numbers from the AGA, revenue is down more than a third in 2020, despite strong gains on the sports betting and online gambling fronts. Through October, commercial casino revenue has fallen to $24.1 billion, with the industry fighting to break the $30 billion mark as COVID outbreaks rage across the country.

Still. The AGA and NIGC sound optimistic that a recovery is on the horizon.

“The American gaming industry has proven time and again that we are resilient,” Miller said. “Through natural disasters, human tragedy, and economic downturns, we have always rallied around each other and our communities, ensuring we not only recover, but thrive. American gaming can and will recover to regain the momentum that carried through 2019. State and local economies rely on it.”

“While we welcome this positive report from FY2019, we know that the current reality is dramatically different,” NIGC Vice Chair Kathryn Isom-Clause said. “Future reports will reflect the effects of the pandemic on the industry, as well as how it continues to adapt to changing circumstances. Despite these current hardships, Indian gaming, like the tribal nations it benefits, has proved its resiliency over the years.”

How Much Is the Average American Gambling?

All of these gaudy numbers raise an interesting question: Is all of this gambling activity healthy?

According to some rough estimates from USA Today, the average American adult loses $261 annually on lottery and casino gambling. That number doesn’t include tribal casinos, which would almost certainly push that total over $300 per adult. But bear in mind, that is how much they are losing. The actual amount of money gambled is likely 10-times that amount.

Furthermore, not everyone gambles. Assuming 50% of adults gamble non-trivial amounts of money, the average gambler is likely spending in the neighborhood of $6,000 on gambling and losing an average of $600. Those numbers don’t look bad at first glance but remember that many gamblers win money, and these numbers would start to look downright scary if we removed the substantial jackpot winners.

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