Indian Gaming: The Big Players Indian gaming is now a $6-billion industry, although the explosive growth of this segment has slowed. According to figures from the Indian Gaming Commission, the federal agency that regulates Indian gaming, at the beginning of 1998 there were 186 tribes operating 276 gaming operations in 28 states, ranging from Arizona to Wisconsin.

The figures are a little deceptive, however, because only 70 facilities are considered "Class III"--those that may operate casino games, slot machines, and pari-mutuel betting. The others operate games of chance such as high-stakes bingo, pull-tabs, and punch-boards.

The undisputed leader of Indian gaming remains the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, whose Foxwoods Resort in southern Connecticut is billed as the "largest casino in the entire world." It is certainly the best known--and most profitable--Indian gaming facility in the country. Although no expansions are currently planned, Foxwoods' 812-room Grand Pequot Hotel, Casino, and Conference Center opened in phases from late 1997 through this year, bringing the resort's guest room total to 1,402. There's also a 50,000-square-foot casino, a conference center that includes a 25,000-square-foot ballroom, and three meeting and executive conference rooms.

Also in southern Connecticut, the 240-acre Mohegan Sun, the third-largest casino in the country, made several additions this year. These include a Mohegan-themed gas station, a venue called the Race Book for off-track betting, and the themed Winter Casino entrance. Mohegan Sun does not have any guest rooms, although management says they may be added in the future.

The Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort, one of 14 in Michigan, has grown to be the largest casino in the Midwest. This summer, the Soaring Eagle debuted the largest hotel in central Michigan. The resort has 512 guest rooms, 26,000 square feet of meeting space, and upscale amenities such as a health club, a full service spa, an art gallery, and a swimming pool with an underwater sound system. The casino boasts a 212,000-square-foot gaming floor with more than 4,000 slot machines, 56 blackjack tables, 12 poker tables, and the largest bingo hall in the world.

On the West Coast, Chinook Winds Casino, on the beach in Lincoln City, Ore., features a 1,000-seat showroom for meetings, plus additional expandable conference space.