LAS VEGAS (AP) – The purchase of a casino resort just off the Las Vegas Strip by a California Native American tribe is viewed as a milestone in the development of Indian casino property in the center of US gambling.
“Who doesn’t want to be in Las Vegas?” Laurens Vosloo, CEO of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal after last week’s announcement that the tribe would buy the Palms Casino Resort from Las Vegas-based casino operator Station Casinos for $ 650 million will.
“It’s the world’s gaming mecca and the place to be,” said Vosloo. “It is a natural and good opportunity for us to have an asset there to send our customers to, contribute to this economy and be part of the Las Vegas community.”
The deal is expected to close later this year. This makes the San Manuel Band the second tribal company in the corridor of the Las Vegas resort.
Mohegan Sun Casino opened in March at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas – the renamed and renovated former Hard Rock Resort a few blocks east of the Strip.
The gambling establishment is the namesake of a property operated by the Connecticut-based Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and located about halfway between New York City and Boston.
A third company, Hard Rock International, owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, acquired rights to the Hard Rock brand for the Las Vegas market in 2020 and has expressed an interest in a property on the Las Vegas Strip.
“To say you work in or near the Las Vegas Strip is a vote of confidence and a great token of credibility,” Josh Swissman, advisor at The Strategy Organization, told the Review Journal. “All three (tribal owners would) benefit from this association.”
American Indian tribes have operated arcades and bingo halls since the 1970s. Business expanded after the 1988 Indian Gambling Regulation Act introduced a supervisory structure.
A 2018 report by the American Gaming Association with Meister Economic Consulting identified tribal operations in 28 states, which accounted for approximately 45% of all gambling revenue in the United States
The San Manuel Band opened the San Manuel Casino in the Southern California community of Highland in 1986.
Tribal casinos aren’t new to Nevada, but the Mohegan Sun and San Manuel locations aren’t on reservation land.
The Fort Mojave Tribe’s Avi Resort & Casino opened in 1995 on the Fort Mojave Reservation near Laughlin, about 100 miles south of Las Vegas.
The Wa She Shu Casino & Travel Plaza opened in 2016 and is operated by the Washoe Tribe in Nevada and the Poarch Creek Indians of California in Gardnerville.
Tribal gambling researcher Katherine Spilde, a professor at San Diego State University, told the Review Journal that casino purchases in Las Vegas are a natural evolution for Native American casino operators.
“Once you have built your own property and maximized what you can do in the market you are in, we see tribes looking to expand commercially into a casino that is not on tribal land,” she said.
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