New Mexico tribes see slot revenue growth

September 4, 2018

Nearly all of New Mexico’s American Indian gaming tribes reported year-over-year growth in slot machine winnings from their casinos, with some Northern pueblos among those posting the biggest gains.

Taos Pueblo reported raking in $7.7 million from slot players during the state fiscal year that ended June 30, a 7 percent increase from the previous fiscal year.

Tesuque Pueblo reported $21.1 million in slot revenues, up 6 percent, and Ohkay Owingeh reported $17.2 million, up 5 percent.

A new Tesuque casino next to the Santa Fe Opera is scheduled to open this year.

The state Gaming Control Board recently released the slot revenues for New Mexico’s 14 gaming tribes for the 2018 fiscal year.

The net slot machine win for all gaming tribes for the 2018 fiscal year totaled more than $756 million, the board reported. Net win is the amount the tribes took in from slots after paying prizes and regulatory fees.

The growth in the tribes’ slot winnings means more money for them to spend on education, health and other initiatives. It also means more money for state government, which receives a share of the tribes’ slot revenues in exchange for limiting off-reservation gambling.

The state received a cut of more than $66.2 million from the tribes’ slot winnings in the 2018 fiscal year. That money goes into the government’s general fund for financing of public education, environmental protection and other programs.

Jon Clark, an economist with the Legislative Finance Committee, said the committee staff’s best explanation for the growth in tribes’ slot winnings was New Mexico’s improved economy.

“People have a little bit more money in their pocket,” Clark said.

The New Mexico Lottery also reported an increase in ticket sales in the 2018 fiscal year, and total slot machine revenues at the state’s five horse-racing tracks were up for the period.

The Mescalero Apache Tribe in southeastern New Mexico was the tribe reporting the biggest gain in slot revenues in the 2018 fiscal year. It posted a nearly 8 percent increase, to $70.3 million.

“That’s surprisingly strong growth,” Clark said.

The oil boom in the southeast part of the state could be an explanation, he said.

The state has seen strong growth in gross receipts taxes in Eddy and Lea counties, Clark said, adding, “It’s also filtering into some neighboring areas.”

Eight tribes reported jumps in slot winnings ranging from 1 percent to 3 percent in the 2018 fiscal year.

The Jicarilla Apache Nation, with casinos in Dulce and near Cuba, was the only tribe to report a decline in slot revenues. Its winnings fell more than 2 percent, to $4 million.

Year-over-year numbers weren’t available for Pojoaque Pueblo because of its dispute with the state over a new gaming agreement. That dispute ended last year with the pueblo signing a new deal with the administration of Gov. Susana Martinez.

Sandia Pueblo takes in far more money from its gaming operations than any other tribe in New Mexico. Its slot revenues were $166.7 million in the 2018 fiscal year. The Jicarilla Apache Nation rakes in the least money of the gaming tribes.

Clark said the Legislative Finance Committee forecasts continued growth in tribal slot revenues in the 2019 fiscal year.

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