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California Home to 56
 Indian-owned Casinos
By Carol Park, The Business Press, San Bernardino, Calif.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Jun. 27, 2005 - California tribes are expanding their casinos faster than anywhere in the nation.

The state was home to 56 casinos last year. That's five more since 2002, according to the "Indian Gaming Industry Report" by Alan Meister, an economist with Analysis Group, an economic consulting firm with offices in Los Angeles and New York.

About 383 Indian-owned casinos employed 489,000 workers and paid $17.3 billion in wages and $5.7 billion in taxes in the United States in 2003.

Those numbers increased in 2004 to 405 Indian casinos, which employed 539,000 workers and paid $19.4 billion in wages and $6.2 billion in taxes.

Several casinos in the Inland Empire contributed to the growth in 2004 when they expanded casino floor space and added hotels and restaurants last year.

The 800-member Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians owns and operates the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula. The tribe completed a 400,000 square-foot, $252 million expansion in December.

The 38-member Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, owner of Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Palm Springs, spent $200 million and expanded its casino with restaurants, a 12-story, 251-room hotel and a 100,000-rsquare-foot special events center. The tribe added 44 slot machines to max out at 2,000 under its state compact. The casino hired 600 workers. Previously, the casino employed about 400 workers. The expanded casino opened Jan. 13.

Native American casinos in California generated $5.3 billion in revenue in 2004, up 13.3 percent compared with 2003. The reason for the growth is attributed to the 5 percent increase of gaming machines and 17 percent increase of table games at existing casinos. California Indian gaming will grow again this year because plans for new casinos and the renegotiation of tribal compacts with the state are under way, the report indicated.

Inland Empire casinos plan to be part of that growth.

Pechanga Resort and Casino intends to build a new main kitchen for the casino's existing restaurants this year.

Pechanga will hire an undetermined number of food and beverage staff for the expanded kitchen, spokeswoman Ciara Coyle said.

Fantasy Springs Casino plans to add another 300- to 400-room hotel by 2010, said Chief Executive Officer James McKennon in a February interview.

More gaming options and non-gaming attractions such as restaurants, attract gamblers to tribal casinos. "In some cases, Indian casinos even rival top commercial gaming properties," Meister said in the report. "It should be no surprise that Indian gaming facilities are doing well."

CALIFORNIA TRIBAL GAMING

2003 revenue $4.7 billion

2004 revenue $5.3 billion

Change +13 percent

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Copyright (c) 2005, The Business Press, San Bernardino, Calif.

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