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The Real Deal of Native American Casinos

Native American casinos Cherokee Tahlequah Oklahoma

GamingZion takes a look at the importance of Native American casinos.

When you think of casinos in the US, you almost automatically imagine The Strip of Las Vegas with all the MGM Grands, Bellagios, Ceasars, Wynns and others. But if you look beyond the glitz and glamour of the most popular gambling destination in the US, you will be able to see a whole assortment of casinos that are in the hands of Native Americans.


• Native American casinos help create opportunities for communities
• Gambling centers are located on reservations
• Casinos help pay for improvement of different areas of society

Native American casinos are almost always found on reservations, which have their own regulations in a number of matters, and don’t comply with standard US gambling laws. The role that Indian casinos play hold importance not only in terms of significant economic matters, but also in the social elements.

Native American casinos operate on their own land

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, “Indian tribes are sovereign nations under federal law, and states may not enforce their civil codes on reservations within a state’s borders.” This allowed Native Americans to open casinos that do not operate under the same regulations as other casinos. While some US officials opposed this, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 saw the casinos get the necessary legal backing allowing them to open casinos on reservations in any state, as long as there was an agreement between the state and the tribes.

Indian reservation border sign

Tribal reservations are enjoy a level of sovereignty, the jurisdiction applies to all visitors

A short report titled “The Social and Economic Impact of Native American Casinos” by William N. Evans and Julie H. Topoleski takes a look into the importance of Native American casinos. In it the authors argue that “four years after tribes open casinos, employment has increased by 26 percent, and tribal population has increased by about 12 percent.” What is even more astonishing is the fact that with the operation of casinos, economic standards also have the ability to change. “The fraction of adults who work but are poor has declined by 14 percent.”

When it comes to the more social aspects, there is an interesting statistic which concerns mortality rates. “The increase in economic activity appears to have some health benefits in that four or more years after a casino opens, mortality has fallen by 2 per cent in a county with a casino and an amount half that in counties near a casino.” Although many would immediately look upon this and think positively about casinos, however at further inspection, there is also controversy associated with them. “Four years after a casino opens, bankruptcy rates, violent crime, and auto thefts and larceny are up 10 per cent in counties with a casino.” online poker sites in the US have recently started operations in California, but hopefully they won’t bring the same gloomy fate of the land-based casino, but rather enforce the positive elements.

Concerns are rife with Native American casinos

Native American Casino Indian dealer girl

Casinos generally help with unemployment in reservations struggling with jobs shortage

Some sceptics believe that the more Native American casinos open up, the more it goes against their original their mission to preserve their territories. However, this point is perhaps best illustrated in the National Geographic, which immediately delves into the argument that reservations are sovereign nations. “Within the reservations, they control, administer, and police; they have the right to do whatever they want.”

Secondly, the earnings that are generated through the casino operations are distributed into different areas of society that can be aided with the money. “The proceeds of these operations have gone into things like senior centers or meals on wheels, buying land that has been in dispute, or setting up training centers for their young in Internet technology.” Perhaps once the California and other US poker rooms become more widespread, they will be able to use the expertise of their internet talents.

Three Feathers Native American casinos illegal operation

Tribal permits are not automatic. The Three Rivers casino in NY was under investigation

And the third argument is that Native American casinos bring down the taxes for other Americans. This is because if gambling centers on reservations didn’t exist, then American citizens would “have to pay for programs to help indigenous peoples.”

But it is also important to outline that not all Native Americans are enjoying the fruits of success of the casinos. It is true that the communities surrounding the Native American casinos have at times economically prospered, however the Native American Rights Fund states that “unemployment among adult Indians is about 15 percent – roughly three times the national average – and native Americans remain America’s poorest people.”

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