Native American Casinos
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act represents one of the biggest failures of U.S. policy in the last fifty years. Passed by Congress in 1988 under the guise of “economic development” for the country’s impoverished Native American tribes, IGRA has resulted in the transfer of tens of billions of dollars to casino operators while many Native Americans still remain in serious poverty. It also has been a driving force behind the massive expansion of predatory gambling that has overwhelmed the U.S. over the last twenty years.
Casinos are dishonest, financially-damaging to citizens and are contributing to the unfairness and inequality of opportunity in America – a truth that remains unchanged regardless whether they are commercial casinos or Native American casinos.
While most people understand lotteries are an extension of government, many citizens do not fully realize that the same is true for casinos. Casinos are a creation of government and its public policies. They are instituted by the states to create a new revenue source separate from direct taxation, and they almost always create regional monopolies for the casinos in the process. Without the legal, administrative, regulatory, and promotional privileges provided by government, casinos would not be spreading into mainstream American life as they are today and likely would exist only on the fringes of society.
Prominent Independent Study Shows Casinos Have Made Native American Tribes Poorer
For more than 25 years, the casino lobby has told the American people that casinos are the engine to help Native American tribes prosper. Now The Economist, the world’s leading international magazine, spotlights how casinos have actually made tribal members poorer, pointing to a new study in the American Indian Law Journal showing that growing tribal gambling revenues can make poverty worse. The study looks at two dozen tribes in the Pacific Northwest between 2000 and 2010. During that time, casinos owned by those tribes doubled their total annual take in real terms, to $2.7 billion. Yet the tribes’ mean poverty rate rose from 25% to 29%. Some tribes did worse: among the Siletz poverty jumped from 21.1% to 37.8%. Below is both the story from The Economist and the study from the American Indian Law Journal.
Tribal casinos mostly benefit the casino operators, not the tribes
This 2012 Associated Press story below spotlights how many tribes have not benefited long-term from casinos, despite the fact that the Indian Gambling Regulatory Act of 1988 was passed in the name of helping Native Americans advance economically. This excerpt says it all:
“Of more than 500 American Indian tribes across the country, 124 have notified the U.S. Interior Department of intent to share gambling revenue with members, according to the Indian Gaming Office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. But government officials say they take a hands-off approach and do not know how many actually make payments or how much they share.
Valerie Red-Horse, a financial analyst familiar with Indian casinos, said some tribes have probably paid out too much, but the distributions often barely meet the needs of tribes who live on distant reservations with meager resources and limited access to government services.”
Portrait of Poverty in Oregon
Native Americans in Oregon have the state’s highest overall poverty rate, 29.4 percent. The report concludes that “given this high rate of poverty, it’s obvious that constructing gambling casinos hasn’t worked in bringing Oregon’s 40,700 Native Americans out of poverty.”
Gary Braden, executive director of the Native American Rehabilitation Association NW Inc. in Portland, said “The idea that the casinos have made all Native Americans rich is a myth.” The unemployment rate among members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation remains about 20 percent despite the tribe’s Wildhorse Casino, said Debra Crosswell, the tribal public affairs manager.
Tribes Not Winning Out Under Casinos
This blog post from TruthOut.org points out the devastating economic conditions that still exist on Native American reservations and how casinos will not solve the problem.
The Longest Odds
This news story from Willamette Week explores how hundreds of millions in casino dollars haven’t lifted Oregon’s Native Americans out of poverty.
The Inevitability of Tribal Casinos Not Being Inevitable
Attorney Stephanie A. Levin spotlights a common tactic used by predatory gambling promoters: they misrepresent Indian gambling law to sway a skeptical public about the need for the state to act quickly to legalize casinos before Native American tribes build their own.
Indian Casinos: Wheel of Misfortune
This 2002 article from Time investigates the levels of fraud, corruption and intimidation in America’s Indian casinos. The writers also highlight that the tribes’ “secrecy about financial affairs – and the complicity of government oversight agencies – has guaranteed that abuses in Indian country growing out of the surge in gaming riches go undetected, unreported and unprosecuted.”
An Examination of Indian Casinos in Western New York
This report suggests that an expanded casino in the Buffalo-area will be a “huge money-sucking vacuum” for a city already struggling with high poverty. It was presented on February 15, 2011 to the Legislation Committee of the Buffalo Common Council, by Professor Steve H. Siegel, of the College of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Niagara University.
Native American Tribes and Payday Lenders Partnering to Avoid Oversight
To help “broaden” their portfolio, some Native American tribes are now partnering with pay day lenders to allow such companies to circumvent state laws in nearly 20 states, according to a recent report by the Center for Public Integrity.
Well-intended people have been talking about alternate economic solutions for Native American tribes for more than twenty years. Yet there is no sense of urgency for these Native American tribes to change their predatory business partnerships and, as evidenced by their entrance into the payday lending arena, the situation is getting worse.
Consumer Bureau ‘Zoning In’ on Tribal Payday Firms
The U.S Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is cracking down on players hiding behind Native American sovereign immunity. These players are abusing the power to run casinos in states where gambling is otherwise illegal, and also distributing payday loans in illegal areas.
Payday Lenders and Indian Tribes Evading Laws Draw Scrutiny
Due to sovereign immunity, the legal doctrine that restricts state interference in tribal affairs, many partnerships between Native American Tribes and federal regulators are being put under the microscope. These partnerships are drawing a lot of scrutiny given their allowance of predatory lending and finding loopholes in federal laws.
Casino-owning tribes still subsidized by US government while financial backers see immense profits
Casinos were supposed to generate billions of dollars of revenue for Native American tribes, allowing them to be independent of taxpayer-funded federal subsidies. However, while their financial backers reap heavy profits, the casino tribes have yet to see the revenue they need and are thus still reliant on money from the US government. This article, by the Niagara Gazette, documents one tribe’s struggle to gain the profits the casino was built to raise.
All play and no work leads to millions for one Native American tribe
Every day, millions of Americans get out of bed, get ready, and go to work, spending their whole day working to provide their family with necessary income. The American economy is built on hard work on the part of individuals. However, members of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Native American tribe live a very different lifestyle. “We have 99.2 percent unemployment,” Stanley R. Crooks, the tribe’s president, said as he smiled during a rare interview. “It’s entirely voluntary.” Members of this tribe receive just over $1 million annually from the tribe’s casino profits, without ever having to work to provide a good or service. Their economy is built on the profits of gamblers, and little more. There is no economy in the entire world that functions like this- where no one has to produce anything of value to reap millions. That is because it is an unsustainable economic plan, as can be seen in this article from The New York Times which documents the group’s fear of recent attempts to restrict casino gambling, which would leave the tribe with essentially no source of income.
Tribal leader admitted casinos won’t last
This story from the Washington Post serves as an obituary for Richard Milanovich, chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who led the fight for tribal casinos. However, he never intended them to last. “It’s not our end goal,” Mr. Milanovich told the Los Angeles Times in 1990. “We know gaming won’t last. The laws will change at some point. But it’s a means to an end. It has brought us sorely needed revenue which has allowed us to diversify even more, so the future of the tribe is secure.” This shows that even those instrumental to the tribal casino movement know that casinos shouldn’t be the tribe’s lasting source of revenue.