updated 7/11/2006 8:14:27 PM ET 2006-07-12T00:14:27

Tribal casinos pulled in $22.6 billion in gambling revenue last year, double the take of Nevada gambling, as Indian casinos recorded another record year, the industry trade group reported Tuesday.

The revenue was a 15 percent increase from the $19.6 billion Indian gambling reaped in 2004, according to the National Indian Gaming Association. Tribal gambling has recorded double-digit growth almost every year since Congress created the legal framework for it in 1988.

There are now 408 Indian gambling facilities nationwide, including 247 full-blown casinos with slot machines and other Las Vegas-style games. Other gambling centers are smaller or offer video poker, bingo or other games short of slots.

The facilities are operated by 223 Indian tribes in 28 states.

“Indian gaming is continuing to create much needed jobs and opportunity,” said Ernest L. Stevens Jr., chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association. But he said the industry’s growth now is focused more on expanding existing facilities than building new ones.

“It is likely that our growth will slow in the future, yet we will continue to have sustainable growth as the general public continues to demand new entertainment opportunities,” he said in a statement.

Nevada casinos brought in $11.6 billion from gambling in 2005, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Unlike Indian casinos, though, Nevada casinos rely on other entertainment like hotels, restaurants and shows for about half their revenue, pushing their total take for 2005 past $20 billion.

Indian casinos took in about $2.7 billion last year from non-gambling entertainment.

Facing backlash
The growth of Indian casinos has caused a backlash in some communities, partly because tribes, as sovereign governments, are not bound by most state or local zoning or tax laws. Congress is considering legislation to block tribes from building casinos away from their reservations.

In its revenue report, the National Indian Gaming Association sought to highlight the economic benefits of tribal gambling to state and federal treasuries. The report said Indian gambling generated $2 billion in 2005 for states through revenue-sharing agreements and other means, and billions more in federal taxes, revenue and savings — including an estimated $1.5 billion in reduced welfare and unemployment taxes.

Indian gambling also generated 600,000 jobs nationwide last year, the report said.

The report did not disclose industry profits, something the National Indian Gaming Association says is proprietary to individual tribes, most of which keep the information private. Nevada’s major hotel-casinos earned $1.8 billion before federal taxes in fiscal 2005.

According to regional breakdowns from the National Indian Gaming Commission, the federal agency that oversees tribal gambling, California and northern Nevada accounted for the most Indian gambling revenue in 2005: $7 billion.

Southeastern and northeastern states accounted for $5.5 billion; upper Midwest and plains states for $3.9 billion; southwestern states for $2.5 billion; the Pacific Northwest and Alaska for $1.8 billion; and Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma for $1.7 billion.

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