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Written by: Grant Eve, Partner, Tribal Gaming Industry Leader
How do you know when something is normal? In terms of science, researchers and physicians collect numerous statistics, calculate averages, and usually classify the results as “usual” or “within range.”
Wipfli took a similar approach to determine the financial health of Indian gaming operations. For the 24th time, revenue and expense data were collected from over 115 Native American Tribal casinos to compile Wipfli’s Indian Gaming Cost of Doing Business Report. This data can help Tribal casino operators determine whether their performance was similar to other Tribal casinos in 2021. As casinos moved toward 2022, we saw an already tough industry come back strong and with fierce aggressiveness.
Casino operators can look at industry norms. Wipfli collected and calculated data to reveal how Tribal casinos performed by region, location (e.g., rural or urban), and whether or not they operate a hotel. Operators can also explore revenue streams, expenses, assets, liabilities and equity for the year.
Here’s a snapshot of what Wipfli learned about “typical” Tribal gaming performance in 2021:
On average, total revenue was $74.9 million for Tribal gaming operations – an increase of about 27 percent compared to 2020. The top 50 percent of casinos net profit-wise (which Wipfli classifies as “high profit”) saw average total revenue increased by 12.4 percent from 2020 to 2021 to net profit of 47.4 percent. Non-high profit casinos saw revenue increased by an average of 17.8 percent to 36.2 percent.
In 2021, the net profit percentage was around 36.2 percent of total revenue for typical casinos – up from almost 18.4 percent in 2020. This means that 36 cents from every dollar in revenue was available to Tribal governments and operations.
The typical Native American casino saw a significant decrease in operating expense margins in 2021. On average, operating expense margins were 69 percent, down from around 82 percent in 2020. Marketing, promotions, and wages continue to be some of the most significant expenses in most casinos.
Regional and location-based performance
The Northwest region had the largest increase of total revenue, which increased 57.05 percent from the prior to the current year. The average increase for all regions from 2020 to 2021 was 38.53 percent. Rural casinos have a slightly higher operating expense percentage and a lower net profit percentage than urban casinos. Rural casinos spent more on wages and less on marketing than urban casinos.
All casinos spent more money on repairs and maintenance, professional services, and contract labor in 2021.
Thoughts on the future
The industry experienced an aggressive rebound in 2021 and is hitting record high revenues and profits again in 2022. Now the industry is settling into its new normal. However, “normal” includes an intense talent war, ongoing supply chain issues, and economic uncertainty. Casino operators have to continually adjust plans to account for a host of factors, most of which are beyond their control. Agility is the name of the game.
How Wipfli can help
Wipfli produces the only industry report that quantifies the financial performance of Indian gaming facilities. To see how your gaming operations stacked up to industry standards, download the 2022 Indian Gaming Cost of Doing Business Report. Then, contact us, to explore profitability assessment services from gaming experts at Wipfli.