As Florida lawmakers take a break from debating legislation to revamp the state’s gambling laws, new numbers released Wednesday show the state’s eight Indian casinos again increased non-gambling revenue by 25 percent in 2012, far and above the 2.7 percent increase among Indian facilities nationwide.
It was the second consecutive year of a double-digit non-gambling increase, driven by the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s two Hard Rock hotels and casinos in Tampa and Hollywood, said Alan Meister, an economist with Nathan Associates, which tracks Indian gaming.
Non-gambling revenue includes food and entertainment, a proven industry boon led by the larger casino entities in Las Vegas.
“The Seminole tribe has been developing this project, this brand, and over time it has been able to leverage it and add more shows and restaurants,” said Meister, who is the author of the newly released Indian Gaming Industry Report by Casino City, which tracks the performance of Indian casinos in the U.S.
The annual study, which tracks data through 2012, reports that Florida’s eight Indian casinos increased gambling revenue by 2.5 percent that year, a notch above the 2 percent hike in 2011.
Florida ranked fourth overall in gambling revenue among Indian casinos with $2.2 billion in 2012, behind California, Oklahoma and Washington. The figure is a 3 percent increase, the second straight year of growth after a decline in 2010.
The report notes the expansion plans of the Seminole brand, including the hotel, showroom and conference center in Coconut Creek and a new casino in Hollywood.
“They’re developing these other properties and expanding on what they have,” Meister said. “I don’t think it’s any surprise that Indian gaming has been successful in Florida. You can see how nice these facilities are, and then there is the move into Class 3 gaming,” which is casino-style games such as black jack. The Seminoles declined comment on the report.
The gaming market in Florida and the strong performance of the two Hard Rock outlets has attracted large casino interests, including Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Malaysian-based Genting Group, both of whom have for years courted lawmakers in hopes of landing choice spots for large casinos in South Florida.
This year’s casino push has been tempered by the 2015 expiration of part of a contract between the state and the Seminoles. The contract promises the Seminoles a degree of exclusivity in exchange for handing over a share of gaming revenue to the state, which is expected to be $234 million this year.
Gov. Rick Scott has reportedly requested a slowing of movement on a number of gambling bills as he negotiates with the tribe. That puts the large interests on hold, but given the casino numbers, that hardly seems to be a problem.
Getting the go-ahead to build in Pennsylvania “took 20 years,” Andy Abboud, vice president of government relations for Las Vegas Sands Corp., said earlier this month. “Texas, we’ve been working on for years. With all due respect for the legislators, we have a high bar, and we’re not looking to compete with the greyhound tracks or the Indian tribes. But, really, right now you can get a gaming license in Florida with a note from your mother.”
Still, that arena is anchored by Indian gaming.
“These commercial casinos have been the strongest market in gaming through 2013,” said Robert Shore, an analyst with Union Gaming Group, a Las Vegas-based consultancy. “In Florida, it’s related to the strength of the economy and the closing of the Internet cafes last year.”
Shore declined to handicap the gaming outcome in Florida. The strong new numbers show a robust but limited market, he said.
“There are so many interrelated parts there — you have opposition from Disney and some of the other interests,” he said. “There’s just no way to tell at this point.”