Tribes bask in glow
of $25.7 billion year

Apr 10, 2007 3:03 AM

Tribal gaming had a record year of revenue in 2006 with tribes nationwide generating $25.7 billion in gross revenue and another $3.2 billion in related hospitality and entertainment services, according to a report released at the National Indian Gaming Association 16th annual membership meeting in Phoenix.

"It’s just a delight to be here with so many Indian people who have been successful,’’ said former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell. "We’re not all successful, yet. And it seems like our goal as people who have managed to break through and move ahead — whether it’s in entertainment or public office or business — should be to never forget our obligation to remember where we came from and that there are still people who need that help.’’

The trade show ribbon cutting ceremony was hosted by NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr., a citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. Stevens, who is in his sixth year as chairman, announced during the convention that Indian gaming had been extremely successful during 2006.

"For many Native Americans, Indian gaming jobs represent some of the first opportunities for quality employment on the reservation,’’ he said during his state of the industry address. "As a result, we’ve seen thousands of our young people returning home to start their careers and build their lives.’’

Stevens noted that the bulk of the revenue from Indian gaming goes towards paying salaries, benefits and employment taxes of the jobs created within the organizations. These jobs are filled by both Native and non-Native employees.

"When you think about it, we’re at $25 billion, with more than 675,000 jobs,’’ said former Sen. Tom Daschle. "I can’t think of another sector in the economy that can boast of that growth of income, the growth of success and the tremendous growth in hope that (Indian gaming) has given millions of people all over the country. It is evidence of the extraordinary success. And there is more to come.’’

The ’07 trade show, according to Stevens, was the largest show in the 22-year history of NIGA. Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. said the growth convention shows success for Indian country.

"In my opinion, NIGA is about success, through these conferences we are telling success stories in Native America,’’ Shirley said.

He said NIGA is a means for American Indians to get back on their feet. And he pointed out that there are many Native businesses that are currently running independently.