MILWAUKEE – American Indian (search) tribes shared $900 million in casino gambling revenue with governments in 2004, a 23 percent increase over the previous year, according to a comprehensive review of Indian gaming released Wednesday.
The report said 405 tribal casinos in 30 states also contributed $6.2 billion in taxes, two-thirds of which went to the federal government. The rest was split between local and state governments, the annual Indian Gaming Industry Report (search) found.
Federal law says states cannot tax tribes because they are sovereign governments, but tribes that want to sign deals to establish casinos are increasingly offering to share their revenue in exchange for more games and longer deals.
Higher tax payments reflect growing gambling revenues. The report said tribal casino income grew at nearly two times the rate of commercial, or non-Indian, casinos in 2004.
Some tribes have come to resent legislators who rely on tribal revenue sharing for their state budgets, said Alan Meister, an economist with the Analysis Group in Los Angeles who compiled the report.
"Every new agreement is involving some sort of revenue sharing (with the state)," Meister said. "I don't think necessarily that all tribes are against it, but it's got to be a win-win relationship."
The Forest County Potawatomi tribe, which operates a casino near downtown Milwaukee, saw its revenue sharing payments to the state increase to $40.5 million last year from $6.4 million in 2003.
The tribe's attorney general, Jeff Crawford, said his tribe pays three to four times the corporate tax rate.
"We want to be good neighbors, but we don't want to be taken advantage of, just like the average taxpayer doesn't want to be taken advantage of," he said.
In Wisconsin, where renegotiated casino pacts took effect, state and local governments saw by far the largest rise in revenue sharing, increasing 307 percent over 2003 rates to $68 million.
However, the future of those payments is in jeopardy after the state Supreme Court ruled in May 2004 that Gov. Jim Doyle (search) overstepped his authority in signing the deals, which allowed for new table games such as craps and roulette. The state and the tribes are in negotiations over a new deal.