The recession is continuing to take its toll on reservation gaming in Arizona, affecting not just the tribes but the state programs that share in the profits.
New figures Monday from the Arizona Gaming Department show revenue sharing by the tribes for the last quarter of 2009 was just slightly more than $11.1 million. That compares to $12.8 million in the same period a year earlier — and $15.2 million the year before that.
State Gaming Director Mark Brnovich said the numbers “appear to be consistent” with what is happening elsewhere around the country.
Gaming experts have said the willingness of Arizonans to put money into slot machines, wager on poker or engage in other forms of gambling permitted on reservations is closely linked to what people consider their “disposable” income for entertainment purposes.
The tribes do not share specific numbers with the public. The only thing released is a once-a-year tally of gross profit figures, income after paying out winnings but before expenses. And that is not broken down by tribe.
That makes the amount shared with the state — a variable percentage of what each tribe makes — the best indication of trends.
The requirement of tribes to share revenues with the states goes back to a 2002 initiative which gave Indians the exclusive right to operate casinos in Arizona.
That measure requires tribes to share 1 percent of the first $25 million in “net win” each year. That is what is left after gamblers collect their winnings but before other expenses.
Arizona gets 3 percent of the next $50 million, 6 percent of the next $25 million and 8 percent of anything more than $100 million a year.
Despite the decline, Brnovich said the contributions “continue to provide significant funding for an array of public programs.”
Of the money collected, half goes to education, with another $2.5 million for trauma and emergency services. The Arizona Wildlife Conservation Fund and the state Tourism Fund each get about $717,000, with more than $222,000 going for programs to help those with gambling problems.
The Gaming Department keeps more than $1.9 million for its costs in monitoring and regulating the industry.