Tribal gaming jobs boost rural Minnesota

15 November 2009

Indian gaming and tribal governments account for more $1.5 billion in economic impact and over 16,000 jobs in rural Minnesota, according to a study conducted completed earlier this year by consulting policy analyst Barry Ryan, a former research fellow in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Applied Economics. The study was commissioned by the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA).

The study analyzed 2007 data and concluded that the positive economic impacts of Indian gaming are “widespread across rural Minnesota and benefited nearly every industry in the state.”

Indian gaming and tribal governments accounted for more than 16,000 direct jobs and another 14,450 indirect jobs in rural Minnesota. That represents nearly 75 percent of the 41,700 direct and indirect jobs supported by Indian tribes.

In dollar terms, tribal gaming and government operations produced $2.75 billion in total economic impact, nearly $1.75 billion of it in rural Minnesota. The study defined “rural Minnesota” as everything outside the seven-county metro area of the Twin Cities.

The total economic impact number includes direct spending by tribes for payroll, purchased goods and services, and capital investment; and indirect spending by workers and vendors.

John McCarthy, executive director of MIGA, said the study also noted that tribes provide nearly $150 million in health care benefits to tribal gaming and government employees, a significant amount in Northern Minnesota, where many jobs include few or no health benefits.

“It’s pretty clear from this study that the tribes are the economic engine of rural Minnesota,” McCarthy said. “Without these jobs, there’s no question that many rural counties would be hurting even worse than they are now.”

McCarthy said MIGA is already planning its agenda for the 2010 legislative session. The association will actively oppose any proposed changes to the gambling landscape, he said.

“Indian tribes are keeping rural Minnesotans afloat,” he said. “The state would be very foolish to rock that boat.”