POLSON — “This is by far the largest dividend S&K Gaming has paid to the Tribes. It is based on our income from (fiscal year) 2021," said S&K Gaming, LLC Chief Executive Officer Bryon Miller. “The gaming business has been good over the last year, since June 2020 actually.”
The largest dividend Miller is referring to is the $6.8 million that he ceremoniously presented to the Flathead Nation Tribal Council Tuesday — the shareholders of S&K Gaming, LLC.
Miller said there were a few factors that resulted in the huge dividend payment. Key among them, he said is the S&K Gaming staff.
“Simply put, this is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the S&K Gaming employees over the last year,” Miller said, adding that there are currently 136 S&K Gaming employees. “I couldn’t be prouder of this outstanding achievement.”
The Chairman of the S&K Gaming Board agreed.
“This (dividend) was a collaborative effort from all levels of the organization from the Shareholder to the employees,” Chairman Troy Felsman said.
Miller said there were a few factors behind the increase in gaming revenue at the KwaTaqNuk, Gray Wolf and Big Arm casinos. The main one has been the coronavirus and its effect on the economy and its limiting entertainment options, be they movies, plays and concerts or dining out. There was a national shutdown beginning in March 2020. As a result, businesses shut down or cut back services, and many of the entertainment options eventually closed down permanently due to the economics of operation under the shadow of COVID-19.
However, S&K Gaming weathered the economy-battering pandemic storm well. It did comply with the national shutdown but used that time to thoroughly clean its facilities, and do some needed upgrades to its KwaTaqNuk Resort and Casino parking lot.
Following that the S&K Gaming casinos were able to stay open.
“We were able to consistently stay open except for a couple of shutdowns for cleaning,” Miller said. “But it was because of the professional cleaning we had done that we were able to stay open.”
Miller added that the mask requirement protocol also helped the casinos remain open.
“There was a short window where we didn’t require masks but as soon as the virus came back so did the masks,” he said. “The cleaning and masks helped us stay open. People needed a safe place to go for entertainment. That made the casinos a safe environment that people could come to.”
Another reason that helped with the casinos’ bottom line was the COVID-19 stimulus funds, whether federal or tribal. That coupled with the limited entertainment options made it a very good year for S&K Gaming.
“Since the start of the pandemic, S&K Gaming focused on providing a safe and sanitary environment for our guest experience,” Miller said.
The huge gaming dividend was just one part of paybacks to the tribal government. In addition to that S&K Gaming made payments of $2.5 million in interest and principal on its debt owed to the Tribes during fiscal year 2021. The loan payments were related to the construction of Gray Wolf Peak Casino, for the remodeling of the KwaTaqNuk Resort and Casino and major building and upgrades at the Big Arm facility.
From 2016 to 2021, S&K Gaming has paid more than $9.9 million in interest and principal payments on debt used to build Gray Wolf and Big Arm, and remodel KwaTaqNuk.
Since its inception in 2006, S&K Gaming, LLC has paid more than $20 million in dividend payments.