The Future Of Tribal Gaming

Where Does Tribal Gaming Go From Here? - By John Hendrie

Reportedly, there are nearly 240 tribes operating more than 420 gaming establishments across 28 states. There are still some tribes seeking recognition with plans to pursue gaming on their sovereign lands, but the tide has slowed, even for commercial expansion with the exception of the states of Massachusetts and New York.

LRA Worldwide We perhaps have reached that plateau of diminishing returns and market glut; tribal gaming leadership must consider the future. Much of this look will be determined by location, depth of revenue (the coffers), culture and history. So, what is that mission? As noted in, by Mitchell Etess, CEO of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which operates the Mohegan Sun, “The tribe likes to say: ‘Look 13 generations forward and 13 generations back.” What will be that long term vision for tribal gaming?

We already know that gaming revenue has been diluted by the lackluster economy, intense competition for the entertainment dollar and yet to be determined, on-line gambling. Some tribal operations, particularly the smaller, more remote locations may be the only game in town. They may be safe, but will not grow. Some might accept the status quo; others might say, let’s deliver the best player experience possible and elevate their standards of performance and customer service. Others understand that their audience is looking towards a more desirable Destination Experience, not just gaming, but also recreation, live entertainment, shopping, lodgings, dining and luxuriating. The package becomes more complete with travel centers, convenience stores and RV Parks. Think one stop!

Still in the gaming context, some tribes might want to move into the commercial gambling world. Sovereignty is not protected with this incursion, and taxes and regulatory issues create challenges. However, it can be done. We can appreciate the Mohegans as they operate in Atlantic City, the Pocono Mountains and are in contention with proposed properties in Boston and New York State, for example. They are also aligning with other tribes who see their expertise in casino operations. In the future there will be more confederations, particularly in casino rich western states, perhaps much like Iroquois Confederacy, also called Iroquois League, Five Nations, or (from 1722) Six Nations - a confederation of five (later six) Indian tribes across upper New York state that during the 17th and 18th centuries played a strategic role in the struggle between the French and British for mastery of North America.

So it really does boil down to diversify if you can and protect against losses. Rodney Butler, Chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot tribe which operates Foxwoods Resort Casino, noted that his tribe began to expand years ago. ‘‘We knew it wouldn’t last forever,’’ Butler said of Connecticut’s lock on the market. He noted Foxwoods is also building an outlet center mall. ‘‘When you look at the long-term viability as more states are expanding gaming, you’re going to have to go beyond the reservation, leverage what you've built.’’

Interesting times are afoot with many decisions to be made. As the tribes look to some sustainable growth and profitability model, hopefully they will not lose sight of the Player Experience, which should always be the first goal – a memorable time to be had by all!

LRA LogoJohn Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog 'A Guy Walks In'. LRA is a leading research and consulting company in the emerging discipline of Customer Experience Management (CEM). We work with our clients to help them design and deliver consistently exceptional customer experiences in order to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, and company growth and profitability. We have built a range of quality assurance, mystery shopping, research, training and consulting solutions to help them do so.

Today, we are a growing company operating in more than 120 countries throughout the world, servicing our clients from offices and resources in the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific regions and helping clients such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, the National Football League, Avis Budget Group, Madison Square Garden, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group deliver exceptional customer experiences. Every touch. Every time. For more information, visit

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