This week’s Tribal Business News round-up examines how the record year for tribal gaming wasn’t felt evenly throughout Indian Country, as well as new legislation to improve mortgage lending to Native Americans, and details on a handful of tribal economic development ventures and new acquisitions.

Indian gaming recovery remains uneven as revenues hit record $39B

According to the National Indian Gaming Commission, tribal casino revenue grew 40 percent to a record $39 billion during the 2021 fiscal year. But the recovery seems to be a tale of haves and have-nots, as some tribes haven’t yet fully recovered from the pandemic.

Tribal casino operators report that government stimulus checks and the limited availability of entertainment options brought people out to their properties in the 2021 fiscal year, which set a new record for overall revenues from Indian gaming. 

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Tribal casino operators are cautiously optimistic for continued recovery this year, although many are struggling with higher costs and the lack of availability of labor, as well as new challenges, such as consumers moving from casinos to online gaming. 

Native groups spur action on mortgage ‘re-lending’ in Indian Country

The federal government seeks to outsource some of its re-lending programs to Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs), which could allow them to bolster volumes for Native-focused programs that are technically active, but rarely used.

In response to dismal uptake in a handful of programs intended to boost mortgage lending in Indian Country, Congress is proposing bills that would put more control over the initiatives in the hands of Native CDFIs.

For example, new federal legislation would make permanent the provisions of a successful pilot program in South Dakota that has increased mortgage lending for Native homeowners.

Tribally owned Command Holdings bets big on federal contracting, scoops up $100M firm 

Mashantucket Pequot Nation-owned Command Holdings aims to make a bigger play for federal dollars through its acquisition of government contractor WWC Global. 

Woman-owned WWC Global, a federal contractor, generates about $100 million in revenue and employs 350 people. 

With its 8(a) status expiring, WWC Global prioritized finding the right fit when it sought out a partner that could help continue the federal contractor’s growth trajectory, ultimately finding common ground with tribally owned Command Holdings. The deal is Command Holdings’ third acquisition in just over a year.  

Potawatomi Business Development Corp. bolsters data center capabilities with new acquisition

Data Holdings LLC, a data center venture of the tribally owned Potawatomi Business Development Corporation, has expanded its capabilities and team with the acquisition of a long-time data center partner. 

Milwaukee-based Data Holdings is getting into the red-hot M&A market in the data center industry with a deal for Milwaukee-based Stack41 that adds new service capabilities and helps the company better meet customer needs. 

Cherokee Nation offers drought-stricken ranchers $1M in relief

A new $1 million relief program aims to help Cherokee ranchers mitigate the effects of the current drought plaguing much of Oklahoma and help them deal with sky-rocketing prices for fuel and grain that have left them few options to feed their animals. The Relief for Cherokee Ranchers program will provide $500 each for up to 2,000 ranchers.

Ute Hemp serves up medicine by celebrating culture, preserving natural ingredients

The Utah-based Ute Indian Tribe has set out to build a hemp enterprise that very specifically  reflects the tribe’s culture and values. Rather than take a generic “Native-themed” approach to Ute Hemp LLC, the tribe is being intentional about what makes the products uniquely Ute.

To that end, Ute Hemp is partnering with Native Workshop and Luminary Medicines Co. to develop cannabis oil products using plants and ingredients native to the Ute territory.

Tribal Business News Briefs

Lastly, this week’s round-up of business news briefs includes several items from Cherokee Nation, including a $2 million investment in a new mobile MRI at the tribe’s W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Okla. and a massive new government contract opportunity for Cherokee Federal. Tribal Business News also briefs a couple of new tribal small business programs in Alaska and Washington state, as well as a new NFL partnership for Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort and a donation to a Native American scholarship program.

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