Published: August 8, 2021

Tribal gaming revenue up after sharp COVID-19 decline

Tribes pay the state exclusivity fees for the right to operate Class III gaming and non-house-banked card games.

Morgan attributes the new record to pent-up demand and precautions tribes took to ensure safety.

“I think it shows our customers were comfortable with the health measures we took,” Morgan said. “We led early in testing. Tribes led in getting the vaccine out early and often to anyone that wanted it and continue to do so today.”

Chuck Garrett, CEO of Cherokee Nation Businesses, said the closures and operational changes had a dramatic impact, but the situation was also influenced by the number of stimulus dollars people were granted.

Garrett noted that all casino employees continue to wear masks and strict cleaning protocols have been implemented. The tribe’s casinos also implemented social distancing in many areas and installed dividers between gaming machines so players are more isolated, he said.

“Those casinos have never been as clean as they are right now,” he said. “It has been a heck of an effort.”

No employees were laid off or missed a paycheck, he said.

The year “2020 was an extremely tough year and you are seeing the industry on an uptick as the COVID restrictions have relaxed,” he said. “The question mark now is what does the delta variant mean to our society and what impact it will have on the gaming industry.”

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