A report on the economic impact of the Wildhorse casino in Mission and the overall influence of the state's nine tribal casinos confirmed what most folks already realized: Tribal gambling is a big player in the local and state economy.
How big? Tribal gaming pumped more than $1 billion into Oregon's economy in 2003. The same year in Umatilla County, Wildhorse casino paid $18.2 million in wages and benefits to 888 employees. Another $2.7 million was paid in dividends to tribal members.
But that's only half the story. Wildhorse and the other tribal casinos have a significant "multiplier effect" on local economies. According to the reports authored by Robert Whelan, a Portland economist for the ECONorthwest consulting firm who has followed the gambling business in Oregon for years, for every 100 tribal jobs created through tribal gaming, about 50 jobs are stimulated elsewhere in the economy as money is spent on supplies, services and construction.
Despite the stunning growth in the profits of tribal casinos across the state, it is still a distant second in gambling revenue to the Oregon Lottery. While the Oregon lottery supports education and other state services, and tribal casinos boost the economy, there is a down side. In 2003, the year the study focused on, bettors lost $638 million playing the lottery and $384 million at tribal casinos. Some of those bettors no doubt could ill afford their losses, but it's clear that the good and bad of gambling has long since been accepted by society in Oregon and assimilated into the culture of the nation.
And there's no denying the positive impact of Wildhorse on the region. Today's report helps quantify the impact of tribal gaming and reminds us of how much better off the economy is because of it.