Tribal gaming revenue contributions to the state of Arizona for 2022 blew previously held records out of the water. In July, the Arizona Department of Gaming reported that tribes contributed over $123.6 million during this fiscal year, which ended in June 2022.
$38.4 million was contributed in the fourth quarter alone, which was from Apr. 1 to Jun. 30. But the amount for 2022 surpassed the previously held record by $21 million.
“It is safe to say 2022 was historic for Arizona tribal gaming,” said Ted Vogt, Arizona Department of Gaming Director.
Changes to the 2021 compact helped to increase gaming revenue
Arizona Tribal-State Gaming Compacts require any tribe owning and operating Arizona casinos to give a percent of their gaming revenue to the state.
According to the compacts, between 1% and 8% of the gross gaming revenue generated by Class III tribal casinos is contributed to the state of Arizona.
Last year, Governor Doug Ducey signed a historic amendment to the Tribal-State Gaming Compact. The amendment extended existing compacts for 20 years and aimed to modernize tribal gaming in Arizona.
The new agreement increased the number of gaming devices that a tribe can operate. And it authorized some new items for tribal casinos to operate, including:
- Keno (through the Arizona Lottery)
- Mobile off-reservation lottery
- Event wagering
- Fantasy contents
But could these changes to the Compact in 2021 have contributed to the uptick in gaming revenue seen in 2022? Vogt seems to think so and said:
“I am ecstatic to see the highest levels of tribal contributions to the State following the Amended Tribal-State Gaming Compact signed by Governor Ducey last year.”
Arizona tribal casino contributions benefit residents
Compacts between Arizona and the tribes exist for the benefit of both residents of Arizona as well as tribe members. For residents, those benefits come in the form of both funding and jobs.
The bulk of the contributions that tribes pay to the state go to the Arizona Benefits Fund. 88% of quarterly contributions fund vital areas throughout the state, including:
- Wildlife conservation
- Tourism services
- Instructional improvement
- Emergency and trauma services
- Gambling addiction treatment, prevention, and education
- The Arizona Department of Gaming
“As Arizona’s economy continues to thrive, we have now seen nine (9) consecutive quarters of strong and steady growth in tribal gaming contributions to the state. Our tribal-state gaming partnership funds critical services and programs that benefit Arizonans’ quality of life, such as making sure that hospital trauma services are available on a 24-hour, seven days per week basis.”
The tribes themselves hand out the remaining 12% of tribal contributions. They choose which counties and towns to distribute the money to. Then the funds are used by the local government for:
- Public safety programs
- Community services
“Gaming employs thousands of Arizonans,” Governor Ducey said at the compact amendment’s ceremony. “And it generates millions in tax revenue that benefits areas like K-12 education, conservation, and treatment centers.”
According to the Arizona Department of Gaming, the total tribal contributions to the Arizona Benefits Fund have amounted to $1.2 billion since 2004.
Arizona tribal compacts are crucial for tribes
While tribal casinos contribute greatly to Arizona state programs, the compact agreements have even more benefits and protections for tribes. Casino revenue allows tribes to fund:
- Health care
- Clean water
Stephen Roe Lewis, Gila River Indian Community Governor said:
“Gaming enhances economic development and job growth within our tribe. And it provides funding sources for education, housing, and much more for tribes throughout Arizona.”
The compacts, while they impose restrictions on casinos, guarantee tribes exclusivity when it comes to Arizona casino ownership. This means that only tribes can own and operate casinos in the state.
Robert Miguel, Arizona Indian Gaming Association Chairman, recognized this exclusivity benefit when he spoke of the amended compact last year. “This is an exciting milestone,” he said. “And one we cherish and celebrate as we continue to protect and support Tribal sovereignty through Tribal gaming.”
22 tribal nations in Arizona are federally recognized. 16 of them operate the state’s 24 tribal casinos.
Eight of the tribes are represented by the Arizona Indian Gaming Association. This association provides the tribes with public policy, legislative, and education resources.