Arizona tribal gaming contributions up 20% over last year, nearing $2 billion mark since 2004

Arizona is home to 24 Class III casinos, which contribute a percentage of their gross gaming revenue to the state, cities towns and counties. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Tribal gaming in Arizona is setting records through the first quarter of 2023, which means that contributions from the Arizona Department of Gaming are at an all-time high.

Per the Arizona Tribal-State Gaming Compact, tribes with casinos must contribute a percentage of their Class III gross gaming revenue to the state, cities, towns and counties of Arizona. These contributions go to the Arizona Benefits Fund, where the ADG splits the contributions.

The third quarter of Fiscal Year 2023 produced $27,607,589 for the Arizona Benefits Fund, the ADG announced recently. It marks a 19.9% increase from the same quarter in Fiscal Year 2022, and contributions are closing in on $2 billion since 2004.

“There’s a lot of benefits from tribal gaming,” ADG public information officer Max Hartgraves said. “That $2 billion mark just further highlights it.”

Concerns arose that when sports gambling became legal in Arizona, bettors would turn to gambling apps on their phones instead of going to casinos. While sportsbooks are increasing in popularity, it is clear that customers have not been taken from casinos.

“The state of tribal gaming in Arizona continues to impress, with a near 20% increase in contributions to the state when compared to quarter three of FY 2022,” ADG director Jackie Johnson said in a statement. “Since 2004, tribal gaming has contributed over $1.98 billion to the state and its cities, towns and counties. I look forward to seeing the quarter four release for FY 2023, which will undoubtedly see Arizona surpass a historic milestone of $2 billion in total tribal contributions.”

Contributions go to the Arizona Benefits Fund, where the money is divided for various charitable efforts, some of which include emergency services and wildlife conservation. Nearly half the contributions went to the Instructional Improvement Fund which helps Arizona schools.

Money in the Instructional Improvement Fund goes to the Arizona Department of Education, where they can fund what they see necessary. Rick Medina, Community Relations Manager for ADE, told Cronkite News that up to half the Instructional Improvement Fund goes to teacher salaries and class size reduction.

“ADE is expecting $54 million from the Department of Gaming for the Instructional Improvement Fund in FY23,” Medina said. The rest is spread across various programs, including ones to help improve literacy and lower dropout rates.

Gambling in Arizona used to be limited to 22 tribes. After sports gambling was legalized in the state in 2021, allowing teams and commercial casinos the right to open sports books and take mobile wagers, many tribes supported the decision because they, too, could offer sports betting and increase their options for casino games.

Most have seen increased traffic in their casinos since legalization, although concerns that tax revenues have fallen far short of predictions have also been raised.

“It’s clear that we’ve seen growth in the gaming industry in Arizona since the amended compacts were passed and sports betting has been legalized,” Hartgraves said.

Hartgraves and the ADG emphasized the importance of legal gambling. By doing so legally on tribal grounds, money gets circulated back into the community and supports the tribe. Gaming legally protects the consumer and provides resources for those who may become addicted.

Dominic Stearn doh-mih-nihk stern
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Dominic Stearn expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Stearn, who writes and podcasts for East Village Times and has interned with Sports360AZ, is working for the Phoenix sports bureau.