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Sycuan Gaming Chair Calls Pauma Plans a Sharp Business Move


Indian gaming in San Diego County is big business. Really big business. KPBS Reporter Ed Joyce talked to a tribal gaming expert about the growth of the billion-dollar industry here.

Randy Baker : A casino is basically a bank surrounded by a circus.

That's Randy Baker, chair of the Sycuan Institute of Tribal Gaming at San Diego State University. He says plans by the Pauma Band of Mission Indians to expand their modest casino operation into a large resort points out just how well the gaming business is doing here.

Baker : If North County continues to grow and if the southern parts of Orange and Riverside continue to grow and there is no additional competition, this is a wonderful quasi-monopoly. It's a bold, smart move on their part.

He says San Diego County is the third largest gaming location in the United States behind Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Baker says the county's tribal gaming industry brought in nearly $2 billion in reported revenues last year. 

Baker : This is a major gaming jurisdiction and most people don't have a clue about that. It's all Indian. The Indian casinos range from modest to extravagant. And I think it's going to continue to be that way. And Pauma is now moving into the very mainstream of upper-level casinos. Whether it's Indian or commercial, it's certainly a major player in San Diego County's economic development future.

Many Indian reservations around the country are in more remote areas. He says San Diego County casinos are ideally located and a short drive away for blue-collar gamblers.

Baker : Most patrons look like me, they're middle-aged and gray haired. They're not poor, they're not rich. They go, they spend a couple hundred bucks, have a nice time.

Despite having more than 20 percent of the state's Indian casinos, Baker says there's still room for the industry to grow in the county.

Ed Joyce, KPBS News.

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