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Indian casino gambling revenue growth is slowing, report says

Indian casino gambling revenue growth is slowing, report says
Gamblers at Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa in Cabazon, near Palm Springs. (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

The economy may have dug itself out of the worst recession in a generation, but gamblers apparently are still reluctant to put their money at risk in U.S. Indian casinos.

Gambling revenue at tribal casinos slowed in 2012, growing at a slower pace than non-tribal casinos for the first time in nearly 20 years, according to a report released Wednesday.

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Indian casino revenue grew 2% to $28.1 billion, half the pre-recession growth of 4% in 2007, according to Casino City's Indian Gaming Industry Report.

California remains the nation's largest source of tribal gambling revenue, with 25% of the U.S. market, the report said. Gamblers spent $7 billion at California tribal casinos in 2012, a 1% increase from the year before, it said.

Indian casinos in Alaska saw a 20% increase in gaming revenue, while Connecticut's two tribal businesses saw an 8% drop, the report said.

Non-tribal casinos grew at a faster rate in part because more of them have opened -- including four voter-approved casinos in Ohio, Alan Meister, the report's author, told the Associated Press.

Still, the report said, tribal casino revenue has exploded in the last quarter of a century -- from $121 million in 1988 to more than $28 billion in 2012.

However, the growth rate has flattened. After surging 148% in 1989, tribal casino revenue growth has sputtered, dropping below 10% each year since 2007.

Meister told the AP that the recession and weak economy are partly to blame, but so is competition from the rising number of non-tribal casinos.

"There's only so much gambling that can be done, only so much disposable income," Meister said. "You're adding more and more gambling competing for the same dollars."

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