Native American-run gaming facilities are becoming increasingly common across the U.S., and so, too, are the numbers of casinos that include campgrounds and RV parks.
It’s a unique synergy that has caught the eye of Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), which hopes to open half a dozen franchise campgrounds on Indian reservations by the end of 2006.
“What makes KOA interesting to the Indians is that our KOA campers have the right demographics as gamers,” said Walter Preble, who works as a special assistant to KOA President and CEO Jim Rogers. He added that KOA has the brand recognition that can help draw consumers to Indian casinos.
“It only takes $2 million to build a KOA campground,” Preble said, adding that purchasing a KOA franchise is “a relatively inexpensive way for the Indians to branch out in a way to support their business and help them diversify their offering in the hospitality industry.”
KOA plans to open its first franchise campground on an Indian reservation next month. The KOA at the Feather Falls Casino in Oroville, Calif., initially will feature 100 campsites, but future plans call for an additional 100 sites, along with site-built cabins and cottages, Preble said.
KOA has “four to five” additional franchise agreements in the works with other Indian tribes across the country, Preble said, including the Ottawa Tribe in Miami, Okla., where KOA hopes to open a 100- to 150-site campground next year.
Each of the KOAs that are built on Indian reservations will be designed by KOA, operate to KOA standards and fly the KOA flag, but will be staffed by individuals hired by local Indian tribes.
“We anticipate big business from these campgrounds,” Preble said, adding that Indian gaming is becoming an increasingly lucrative business across North America, generating some $18.5 billion in revenues for Indian tribes in 2004.
Preble added that the U.S. government recognizes 562 separate and distinct Indian tribes, 220 of which offer gaming in every state except Alaska and Hawaii. “From every major metropolitan area, excluding Salt Lake City, you are within 90 miles of a gaming facility,” he said.
Another factor driving KOA’s interest in Indian casinos is its own market research, which has concluded that there are as many people interested in a gaming vacation as there are in a fishing vacation.