The SBC Digital Summary gives insight into tribal gaming in the US


No one could have anticipated the world would have to deal with a major health pandemic capable of disrupting virtually every industry at every level. However, that’s exactly what has happened because of the coronavirus, and one of the industries that have been hit the hardest is the gaming industry. Casinos across the globe have been forced to shut down, sports leagues have had to cancel or postpone their activities the-sbc-digital-summary-gives-insight-into-tribal-gaming-in-the-usand even lotteries have taken a hit due to stay-at-home orders. In the US, tribal casino operators have suffered, as well, and they came together today at the SBC Digital Conference to discuss how COVID-19 is impacting their business.

When it became evident that the U.S. states would need help to keep their heads above water during the health crisis, the federal government stepped in to offer several economic stimulus packages to individuals and businesses. While casinos were included in the relief, smaller gaming operations with less than 500 employees were initially not eligible for the funds. This included essentially all of the tribal casinos, many of which are independent from one another and have minimal workforces compared to the larger operations. Despite the fact that the tribes give it a substantially portion of their revenue to government bodies, they were going to be left out in the cold.

However, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was ultimately changed to include these smaller casinos – for the first time in 25 years. Tribes from around the country worked together to help lobby for the changes, joined by other operators who were in the same position. Even without the stimulus, the majority of the tribes had still been willing to keep their casino staffing levels intact, or close to the same, and the PPP support has made their decision a little easier to manage.

Tribes in the U.S. are controlled differently when it comes to casino matters. As opposed to commercial casinos that can essentially present a proposal to regulators and receive approval, each tribe has to present a separate proposal every time it wants to make some type of change. This is due to the complex gaming compacts they have in each state, as well as the oversight maintained by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). Any change that would incur an alteration in the economy of the tribe has to be approved each time.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the need for change in the casino industry is well recognized. It’s possible, although it will require a lot of work, that the current regulatory guidelines and requirements could be changed to make it easier for tribes to adapt to the new casino environment that is going to come. Since the tribal operations not only impact their own communities, but their surrounding communities, as well, anything they can do to aid in the recovery should be welcome. However, if too many restrictions are in place, providing that assistance won’t be able to take place quickly enough.