The 14th annual Western Indian Gaming Conference, sponsored by the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, was held last month in Palm Springs with slim attendance and fewer exhibitors than in years past.
CNIGA President Anthony Miranda wasn’t bothered by the drop-off in attendance.
“The people who really cared about our issues showed up this week,” he said. “We presented a compelling conference program and produced excellent speakers.”
One of those panels included representatives from the state legislature, which is considering several measures that may increase gambling in California. The legislators addressed the shortfall in revenue that was expected to be generated by Indian gaming. Several tribes have declined to sign gaming compacts negotiated with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, exacerbating the state’s looming insolvency.
Miranda said the state’s tribal casinos have fared better than their Las Vegas counterparts, with declines mostly in the single digits.
“Our customers are still coming,” he said. “They’re just spending a little less.”
Miranda acknowledges that many new projects and expansions have been delayed, if not outright canceled. But he blamed the credit markets, not the economic downturn.
“We’ve seen some tribal debt ratings lowered,” he said. “That doesn’t help.”
He also warned that the state’s budget shortfall would mean that legislators may look at other forms of gaming to make it up.