Since the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, American Indian gaming has grown from a $100 million sideline into a $23 billion juggernaut.

The growth of the industry is not necessarily due to construction of new casinos, says Alan Meister, PhD, a manager with the Analysis Group Inc., Los Angeles, and author of the annual Indian Gaming Industry Report, although new developments, such as the Sandia Resort & Casino in Albuquerque, N.M., are always coming online. Meister says that much of the growth is coming from within, particularly with the addition of hotels, restaurants, and meeting facilities. “More and more facilities are following the Las Vegas model,” he says.

Provisions in tribal-state compacts can directly affect the growth of the meetings and conventions component of Indian gaming. For example, the Arizona Tribal-StateGaming Compact, which went into effect in 2003, limits the number of gaming machines a casino can operate. “To expand the market, you need to expand the amenities,” says Sheila Morago, executive director, Arizona Indian Gaming Association.

At a panel discussion on gaming at the Krisam Group Executive Summit, held September 7 to 10 at the Venetian, Las Vegas, Chris Perry, vice president of sales and marketing for Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, Conn., said he was gratified to learn that planners believe there is a “growing trend toward looking at Native American gaming resorts as meeting destinations.

“There has long been a perception that Native American ownership represents a second- or third-tier product,” Perry says. “That's just not the case. “ The group market still has a lot to learn about the American Indian gaming niche, he says. While meetings and conventions account for 20 percent of Mohegan Sun's business, Perry says there are planners “who still don't know what we're about. They think we're simply a casino and a hotel. They get here and they find out we have a 10,000-seat arena and a world-class spa.”

And now golf has become an important part of the mix. Turning Stone Resort & Casino, operated by the Oneida Indian Nation in Verona, N.Y., has made a conscious effort, says Barry Parrish, VP of sales and marketing, to turn itself into a premier golf destination. The resort has five golf courses, including the Atunyote, which will host a $6 million PGA tour event in 2007.