NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The New Mexico Gaming Control Board shows tribal casinos are making a comeback with slot profits. This means they are finally catching up with pre-pandemic levels. 

Like many industries across the state, tribal casinos took a huge hit with the COVID-19 pandemic and the dicey economy and inflation that followed. In 2020, money coming into casinos came to an abrupt halt. 

Michelle Pato is the lead attorney for the New Mexico Gaming Control Board. She explained, “It’s hard in an industry that had to be non-existent during the pandemic. We don’t have online gaming here, so everything completely shut down.”

Even when things started to pick back up in 2021, rules and regulations like mask policies, sanitization, and social distancing impacted the casinos’ profits.

“You had the people that really can’t take those risks at all, so they’re not going out. There’s people who maybe just don’t want to deal with all that,” Pato said. 

Now, it looks like tribal casinos are making a comeback. The attorney continued, “I’ve seen some enthusiasm, some desire to make things even better which is really nice to see, and that’s probably in the last year that I’ve really seen that happening.”

According to the New Mexico Gaming Control Board, from January to March this year, they made more than $203 million from gaming machines alone. That’s slightly more than the same time period in 2019. 

The state only tracks the casinos’ slot revenue because that’s all that’s taxed. As always the big winner was Sandia, raking in more than $47 million in slot profits in the first three months this year. That’s almost twice as much as the next biggest earners, Isleta and Santa Ana.