During the past 12 months, Potawatomi Casino’s revenue increased by just 1.7% in the face of emerging competition on the Illinois-Wisconsin border. Based on fees paid by the tribe to the city and county of Milwaukee, media agency Journal Sentinel calculated that the Potawatomi casino at 1721 Canal St. generated no less than $415 million in profits during the past year. Records show that the tribe generated a net win of around $395 million in the previous 12 months.
Jeff Crawford, the tribe’s attorney general, said the marginal revenue growth is the result of the increased competition, higher costs, supply chain delays, and labor shortages. Each member of the tribe has received about $70,000 in dividends a year thanks to the casino revenue. Gene Johnson, executive vice president at Victor Strategies, an Illinois gaming consulting company, said that tribal gambling is still in the process of development and shared expectations that Potawatomi will continue to grow.
The tribe is required to pay the city and the county of Milwaukee 1.5% of its net win, and that is why its casino revenue could be calculated. The net win includes the amount of money gamblers lose and does not include profits from restaurants, concerts, and hotels. For the fiscal year that ended on June 30, the tribe paid more than $5.9 million to each government. In 2021, the tribe paid the city and the county $4.4 million.
Despite the modest uptick in Potawatomi’s revenue, it lags behind the growth seen in other tribal and Las Vegas casinos. According to the National Indian Gaming Commission, the nation’s 519 Indian casinos generated a total of $40.9 billion in their last fiscal year, representing a 4.9% increase compared to the previous year’s total of $39 billion. Nevada casinos’ gaming revenue rose from $13.4 billion in 2021 to $14.8 billion in 2023, representing an increase of 10.5%.
The Tribe Faces More Challenges as New Competitors Will Come Soon
The situation for the tribe will become even tougher because several new competitors are set to open gambling venues in Chicago’s downtown area, Waukegan (Illinois), and Beloit in the coming months. The tribe’s attorney general announced that the tribe did not expect such a massive casino expansion. Grant Eve, an industry insider working for the accounting and consulting firm Wipfli, believes that the Chicago casino, expected to open next month, will have a substantial impact on the Wisconsin market.
To stay competitive in the market, the Potawatomi tribe unveiled a $100-million renovation plan last year, which includes the addition of 1,800 slot machines, a new bar with slot seats, and an exclusive restaurant. The project also provides for the addition of a room for high rollers, which will feature a craft bar and a gourmet kitchen.
This year, the casino added a sportsbook to its catalog of offerings. Eve explained that the house does not make a lot of money from sports betting, while it still has to pay high revenue on the generated profit. But he explained that the new offering will attract the attention of many young men, who may also try their luck on the slot machines or table games. Earlier this month, a rock music-themed restaurant, managed by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of the KISS brand, opened in the casino.
Even though most casinos in Illinois are smaller than the Potawatomi casino, the number of video gambling machines has dramatically surged. The Illinois Gaming Board has announced that there are over 8,300 licensed video gaming locations that host more than 46,000 slot and video gambling machines.
Next to that, several of the tribe’s competitors are run by huge companies like Bally’s. Besides, the Menominee tribe continues to push to establish a casino in Kenosha. The tribe has joined forces with Hard Rock Casino International in their latest attempt to develop a gambling venue in Kenosha. Crawford explained that the big companies threaten Potawatomi’s gaming revenue, making the tribe’s casino look like a “mom-and-pop operation”.