Monday, November 30, 2009


Member tribes of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) are gearing up for a tough 2010 legislative session, as lawmakers indicate they may expand gambling to include racinos at the state's two racetracks, slot machines in neighborhood restaurants and bars, and other new gambling options.

MIGA Executive Director John McCarthy said that rural communities stand to be hurt the most if the state authorizes slot machines in bars.

"Most of the rural tribes have pretty small casinos, and they rely on their local market for most of their business," McCarthy said. "Those tribes could lose anywhere from ten to fifty percent of their business if the state puts slot machines in all the bars in their area."

Tribal casinos are the primary source of revenue to fund government programs and services, McCarthy said, so a large drop in casino business directly affects tribes' ability to provide education, health care, housing and other assistance to their members.

McCarthy noted that tribal casinos also serve as major economic engines in the counties where they are located. Of the 41,700 direct and indirect jobs supported by Indian tribes, more than 30,000 are located in rural Minnesota. Wages, health care benefits, and the purchase of goods and services were worth more than $950 million to rural counties in 2007, the most recent year for which data have been analyzed.

"Most of the MIGA tribes are already reporting drops of ten to fifteen percent in their revenues, just due to the recession," McCarthy said. "If they have to take another twenty to thirty percent hit because of state-sponsored competition, we're going to see some significant workforce reductions. The ripple effect on rural counties is going to be very severe."

Tribes are letting their employees know that if they want to protect their jobs, they may have to get involved and let their legislators know how they feel, McCarthy said.

"In an economy like this one, you can't afford to mess with an industry that supports 41,000-plus jobs statewide," he concluded.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Indian gaming and tribal governments account for more $1.5 billion in economic impact and over 16,000 jobs in rural Minnesota, according to a study conducted completed earlier this year by consulting policy analyst Barry Ryan, a former research fellow in the University of Minnesota's Department of Applied Economics. The study was commissioned by the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA).

The study analyzed 2007 data and concluded that the positive economic impacts of Indian gaming are "widespread across rural Minnesota and benefited nearly every industry in the state."

Indian gaming and tribal governments accounted for more than 16,000 direct jobs and another 14,450 indirect jobs in rural Minnesota. That represents nearly 75 percent of the 41,700 direct and indirect jobs supported by Indian tribes.

In dollar terms, tribal gaming and government operations produced $2.75 billion in total economic impact, nearly $1.75 billion of it in rural Minnesota. The study defined "rural Minnesota" as everything outside the seven-county metro area of the Twin Cities.

The total economic impact number includes direct spending by tribes for payroll, purchased goods and services, and capital investment; and indirect spending by workers and vendors.

John McCarthy, executive director of MIGA, said the study also noted that tribes provide nearly $150 million in health care benefits to tribal gaming and government employees, a significant amount in Northern Minnesota, where many jobs include few or no health benefits.

"It's pretty clear from this study that the tribes are the economic engine of rural Minnesota," McCarthy said. "Without these jobs, there's no question that many rural counties would be hurting even worse than they are now."

McCarthy said MIGA is already planning its agenda for the 2010 legislative session. The association will actively oppose any proposed changes to the gambling landscape, he said.

"Indian tribes are keeping rural Minnesotans afloat," he said. "The state would be very foolish to rock that boat."