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Tribal Gaming on the Rise in U.S.

tax-on-casino-winningsLas Vegas may be the first place that comes to mind when you think of casinos, but the biggest casinos in the United States aren’t in “Sin City,” or any other major U.S. city, for that matter. Rather, the biggest casinos in the U.S. are found on Indian reservations. If you travel to the U.S. and like to gamble, chances are you’ve visited a casino on an Indian reservation or other tribal land.

Tribal Gaming in the U.S.

Gambling is big in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, but it’s even bigger at Native American casinos. That’s because they generate more income than Atlantic City and Las Vegas combined.

Indian tribes are sovereign nations under federal law. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed in 1988 to support and promote tribal economic development and self-sufficiency through the operation of gaming on Indian lands. Today, Indian tribes can operate full-scale casino gambling on reservations in any state that allows gambling.1

The main reason why you don’t hear very much about the finances of tribal casinos in the U.S. is because they are located on Native American reservations and technically aren’t a part of the U.S. This means information on tribal gaming revenue is not shared publicly and can be difficult to obtain.

Tribal Gaming by the Numbers

According to the 2016 Indian Gaming Industry Report, tribal gaming is on the rise.2

Number of Tribes, Properties, Tables, and Machines:

At the end of 2014, there were 489 Indian gaming properties operated by 243 tribes in 28 states. Together, these properties operated roughly 352,000 gaming machines and 7,800 table games.

Gaming Revenue at an All-Time High:

In 2014, gambling revenue at Indian gaming facilities increased roughly two percent to $28.9 billion. This represents the fifth consecutive year of growth for the Indian gaming industry.

Indian Gaming Closing in on Commercial Casinos:

Indian gaming generated 43.5% of all U.S. casino gaming revenue in 2014; commercial casinos generated 44.2% of all casino gaming revenue and racinos (a combined race track and casino) brought in the remaining 12.3%. Over the last 20 years, Indian gaming has more than doubled its share of the market.

Indian Gaming Revenue Has Grown 25 Out of the Last 26 Years:

Since 1988, the year that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed, Indian gaming has only not increased once: in 2009, when it slipped just one percent as a result of the Great Recession. Since the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed, gaming revenue from Indian gaming facilities has soared 300-fold.

California and Oklahoma Tops:

California and Oklahoma are the two biggest states when it comes to Tribal gaming. In 2014, California, where there are currently 72 gaming properties operated by 61 tribes, $7.3 billion was generated. Meanwhile, Oklahoma brought in $4.0 billion, with 30 tribes operating 135 gaming properties.3

3 of the Biggest Tribal Casinos in the U.S.

WinStar World Casino and Resort

It isn’t the just the biggest casino in the United States; it’s the biggest casino in the world. Located in Thackerville, Oklahoma and just minutes from the Texas border, WinStar is owned and operated by the Chickawaw Nation of Oklahoma.4

At over 500,000 square feet, the casino has eight city-themed gaming plazas (Paris, Beijing, Rome, London, Madrid, Vienna, Cairo, and New York) and features over 7,400 electronic games, 96 tables, 46 poker tables (with a high limit area), off-track betting, bingo, and keno.

Foxwoods Casino

This major U.S. casino isn’t in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, but in Mashantucket, Connecticut, on the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Reservation.5

The largest resort casino in North America, Foxwoods is actually a complex of six casinos. The resort itself covers 9.0 million square feet, while the casino occupies 340,000 square feet and is where you’ll find 4,800 slot machines, 250 tables offering 22 different table games, a 3,600-seat bingo hall, keno, and the largest poker room on the East Coast.

Pechanga Resort and Casino

Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego on Interstate 15 is Pechanga Resort and Casino, the largest casino in California. It’s also the top-rated casino in the United States.6

Owned and operated by the Pechanga band of Luiseno Indians, the Pechanga Casino covers 200,000 square feet, where you’ll find 3,800 slot machines, 140 table games, a 24-hour poker room, and a 700-seat bingo hall. There’s also a 4,000-square-foot high-limit area with over 200 slots and video poker machines in denominations up to $100.

Canadians Subject to a 30% Withholding Tax

If you are a non-U.S. resident and win a significant amount of money gambling (typically over $1,200) at a Native American casino, it’s important to know that your winnings could be subject to a 30% withholding tax by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Tribal casinos might not be accountable to the state, but they still have to pay their share to the IRS.

If you happen to win $5,000 playing your favourite slot machine, the casino will pay you $3,500; the IRS keeps the rest. And if you live in a country like Canada, which has signed a U.S. tax treaty, you may be eligible for a refund.

There are a number of countries that currently do not have a U.S. tax treaty but may still qualify if they meet certain criteria. If you reside in any of the following countries, you could still be eligible for a refund: Australia, Bahrain, Barbados, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Israel, Kuwait, Mexico, Malaysia, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates.

To see if you meet the criteria and are eligible to get some or all of your withholding tax back, contact Refund Management Services (RMS).

RMS is the Easiest Way to Get Your Withholding Taxes Back

If you’ve visited the U.S. and had 30% of your gaming winnings withheld by the IRS, the tax refund experts at RMS can help you recoup a portion or all of your taxable winnings.

Founded by a Canadian Chartered Accountant in 1998, RMS is the most reliable and experienced gaming and casino tax refund provider for non-U.S. residents. Only RMS has the One Simple StepTM process; our customer service agents take care of the rest. And best of all, we’ve never been refused an eligible refund!

Once you provide us with complete documentation, your claim will be processed and we will submit it to the IRS. Your refund cheque gets mailed out to you as soon as your refund is approved.

Contact RMS today by calling our toll-free number at 1-888-272-5559 or by e-mailing us at [email protected].


1.“Public Law 100-497—OCT. 17, 198,” Government Publishing Office web site; https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-102/pdf/STATUTE-102-Pg2467.pdf, last accessed April 8, 2016.
2.“Casino City’s Indian Gaming Industry Report,” Casino City web site; http://www.casinocitypress.com/indiangaming/indiangamingreport/, last accessed April 8, 2016.
3.“Gaming Tribe Report,” National Indian Gaming Commission web site, February 19, 2016; http://www.nigc.gov/images/uploads/abc.pdf.
4.“WinStar World Casino and Resort,” WinStar web site; https://www.winstarworldcasino.com/, last accessed April 8, 2016.
5.“Resort Casino,” Foxwood Resort Casino web site; https://www.foxwoods.com/default.aspx, last accessed April 8, 2016.
6.“Best Casinos in the U,.S.,” USA Today 10 Best web site; http://www.10best.com/awards/travel/best-u-s-casino/, last accessed April 8, 2016.
7.“Pechanga Resort & Casino,” Pechanga Resort web site; https://www.pechanga.com/, last accessed April 8, 2015.

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