ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The sluggish economy isn't keeping New Mexicans away from the casinos.
The state's tribal gambling palaces are on track for record profits this year.
In the first six months of 2012:
- Sandia Casino's take was $91 million before taxes
- Laguna Pueblo's Route 66 Casino banked $50 million
- Isleta's Hard Rock raked in about $45 million
- Santa Ana Casino pulled in about $38 million.
The net win is based off earnings on just slot machines and do not include table games.
In all, New Mexico's 14 tribes have made nearly $30 million more this year than they did in the first six months of last year.
The billion-dollar-a-year industry is absolutely essential to the tribes that run them, according to University of New Mexico Professor Dr. Adam Bubb.
"A lot of the tribes don't have any other industry to make revenue," said Bubb. "Tribes are trying to create self-sustainable economies, and for many of them, gaming is that one option that they have."
Bubb said the uptick in gaming this year is due to a recovering economy.
"If you look from 2007 to 2010, tribal gaming and commercial gaming took a dip when the economy went bad," said Bubb.
But even though profits seem sky high, Bubb said that's not the case. Tribes share 8 percent to 10 percent of their slot winnings with the state on top of paying regulatory fees. Sandia Casino still raked in more than $80 million from slots so far this year.
Officials from the New Mexico Gaming Control Board, which monitors the Indian casinos, said some tribes are holding out on some of their taxes.
"We give the tribes what we believe is the right figure for revenue share, and sometimes they disagree with that," board member David Norvell told KRQE News 13.
But Bubb said after taxes and paying off the debts on resorts and casinos, there isn't money left.
"Most of it goes to economic development or to support tribal members in general," Bubb said. "This could be for education; this could be for health care."
Representatives from Albuquerque metro-area casinos did not want to comment for this story.
Tribal casinos bordering Albuquerque will soon be getting some stiffer competition. The Downs at Albuquerque, which has not been much of an operation, is building a new casino with 600 slots on the state fairgrounds closer to the intersection of Central Avenue and Louisiana Boulevard NE.
New Mexico's five racetrack casinos, commonly called racinos, combined made about $250 million on their slots last year. Racinos pay a tax rate of 26 percent.
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