For years, American society at large has debated the use of casinos and gambling as a past-time. However, ever since the late 1980s, with the introduction of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, things have changed substantially. While you might choose to visit, say, Las Vegas if you wish to enjoy some casino gaming, there are other options across the USA.
The rise of Native American casinos
The most popular alternative? Native American casinos. These buildings have become a key part of not only US gaming culture but Native American culture as well. These Indian gaming facilities comprise anything from bingo halls to casinos to various other gambling operations. Thanks to the tribal sovereignty that exists for Native Americans, they have the chance to run gambling operations in ways that others could not.
Why do Indian tribe casinos exist?
There are various reasons why these casino programs came to be. Typically, state governments looked to find a way to provide tribal groups the rights of sovereign nations. Part of this stems from a 1970 court battle, when Russell and Helen Bryan brought forward a taxation battle, as they were charged property tax on their mobile home in northern Minnesota.
After much legal back-and-forth, the Supreme Court of the United States declared that not only was it beyond the state’s authority to tax Natives on their reservation lands, but they even had little authority to regulate the activity that would take place.
Before long, then, a series of Native tribes began to set up Indian bingo operations across their tribal locations. Indeed, Howard Tommie led the Seminole Tribe of Florida to build a high-stakes bingo operation near Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Did the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act have an impact?
Open six days a week as opposed to two days, they also exceeded the $100 maximum jackpot that was allowed. After local governments forces and police looked to arrest as soon as the bingo hall opened, it was taken to the District Court, and the court rules in favour of the Natives. This led to the development of widespread private casinos, bingo halls, and lottery programs.
Naturally, fears existed over how open this could be to abuse from organized crime, and the likelihood of developed problem gambling within communities. With the arrival of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, though, tribal sovereignty within the gaming industry was made possible. Net revenues of around $100m were apparent in 1988; today, they run into the tens of billions.
How many tribal casinos are there?
Today, there are over 524 different American Indian gaming operations across the United States. from the likes of Foxwoods Resort Casino to the Mystic Lake casino hotel, tribal gaming spans many groups. In total, some 574 tribes are federally recognized. The 524 different tribal casinos and Indian casinos are owned by 245 different tribes.
Over half of US states – 29 of 50 – have Indian casinos present at least somewhere. According to the National Indian Gaming Commission, these groups make up a whopping 43% of all casino gaming revenue across the USA, with total annual revenue of around $32bn plus generated by the Native American tribes who take part in this activity.
Among the largest casino options, you will find on tribal programs includes the likes of WinStar World Casino and Resort, Foxwoods Resort (owned by the Pequot tribal nation), San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino, and Mohegan Sun. The latter was once run by the Mohegan tribe, one of the largest tribes.
Typically, such tribal casinos can be found all across Indian country and landscape. This can include places such as North Carolina and New Mexico, where resorts like the Acoma Pueblo and Navajo Nation exist.
What can you play on tribal lands?
As you might imagine, there are various games to be played and enjoyed when taking part in casino gambling on Indian lands. Typically, table games are among the most popular options, as are various casino games and card games. Other popular options include slot machines, which have become increasingly common.
With casino revenues so high, and with tribal sovereignty meaning that it is nigh-impossible to contest, even for the American Gaming Association, casino-style gaming is ever-present. This allows for the development of significant profits.
Since these casinos essentially allow for tribes to bend federal law, there is little opportunity to stop expansion from nonnative Americans. Therefore, it is common to find native opinion pieces that link Indian tribes to organized crime. However, numerous showcases of tribal casinos giving back to charitable organizations exist.
Class I, Class II, and Class III casinos
It is important to note that there are various classes when it comes to tribal gaming.
You have three options – Class I, Class II, and Class III. Class I games typically include ‘traditional games which are linked to Native Indian culture. Class II focuses more on games like bingo that is not prohibited by state law and the federal government.
Typically, Class III casinos will include all forms of gaming that are not considered Class I or Class II games. This includes things like slots, roulette, craps, and blackjack. These casinos tend to be among the highest earners for the tribes and have been described as “recession-proof” in the past.
The problem is that many of these casinos are located within large metropolitan areas. Indeed, around 12% of Native gaming companies bring in well over half (65%) of the entire revenue. A hotel casino in a busy hotspot in the West Coast, such as California, is far more likely to thrive than a smaller group in a place like West Virginia or the Great Plains areas of the USA.
Has the tribal casino aided tribal economic development?
There are many discussions around the pros and cons of creating such a strong gaming space within tribal communities. It is easy to see why, too. Throughout numerous arguments from federal and state governments, there has been much back-and-forth about what can be done to change things for the better. Whilst some of the larger tribal economies have exploded, the limited number of successful casino operators naturally raises questions about how well-balanced this income is.
Indeed, only a handful of the large tribes have seen economic improvement and employment consistency through investments in a casino resort. Many times, tribes were too far away from prospering markets of opportunity. Many tribal governments, though, point to an increase in:
- The ability to give members public services that would be otherwise unaffordable.
- The opportunity to build schools and improve tribe infrastructure.
- How many traditions from tribal history could be kept on without economic harm.
- Provide per-capita payments to the tribe members in very particular examples.
- The improvement of gambling establishments in terms of security and safety.
Naturally, these factors all play a key role in helping Native tribes to continue opening up the gaming floor.
How to differentiate a tribal casino from US casinos
While it might not be obvious to you upon first entering, a casino resort run by Native Americans is very different from one run by Las Vegas, and online 1 deposit casinos differ even further. For one, while many of the casino games might remain the same, there are some key differences. Here are some of the most important changes that separate typical US casinos from casino operators managed by tribal communities:
High octane glamour
First off, the massive economic development that these resorts allow for means they are extremely glamorous. Step foot inside one, and you can see the gaming revenue is spent on keeping the place looking opulent and beautiful. Even compared to high-end casinos found in Las Vegas, even a modest Native casino hotel can look utterly beautiful inside and out.
Indian lands, US owners
Lastly, it is important to note that not all casinos built on Native American land are strictly native-run. Thanks to the need for economic development, some plots of land are sold to prospectors. Mohegan Sun, for example, is run by a South African-based group. Still, these groups are run on the same rules and regulations as properly native-run casinos.
Liberation from taxation
An interesting thing to note about these casinos is they tend to be run without paying a single dollar in tax. Native American tribal bodies do not pay tax to the government. However, they are expected to pay the local state some form of share from their profits under an agreement. Most states know that these are good for the economy, though, so do not look to fight back against this regulation.
For one, they provide job opportunities that are a benefit to the area. Unlike Las Vegas, though, there is no state tax to be paid here. Instead, a fair portion of gaming revenue is often provided to the state as a means of creating a fair balance.
What about winners?
While Indian casinos aren’t paying taxes, winners and employees most certainly do. Any winnings are taxable, as you are given a W-2G when you win. This can make it easier to include any wins on tribal land within your tax returns.
Building better communities
While there are obvious concerns about aiding problem gambling, this form of casino resort gives back to the community. Even in the case of an island resort, these bodies give back to the local community. This means investing some of that juicy gaming revenue into things that Native Americans use every day. This could include roads, schools, and even charitable organizations within the state.
Native American casinos are not regulated
One thing to note is that if you step into a casino based on tribal land, you are stepping into a different world from Las Vegas. While tribal governments want to build fair resorts, tribal gaming is built on different regulations. As such, games are not expected to follow agreed-upon payment schedules, and there is no obligation to clearly show payout percentages as you get elsewhere.
However, the National Indian Gaming Commission wants to build resorts that are enticing to all. This means that often the rules are looser than you find elsewhere. Each resort casino gets to set its own rules on payouts. Table games, though, do tend to be a bit more generous at tribal casinos. Indian casinos, though, are infamous for having slot machines that can be tighter.
Tribal casinos have a specific vibe
Normally, you should know that you have set foot in one of the many Indian casinos and Native American casinos around the country purely by the atmosphere. These tend to have a less ‘holiday camp’ feel because many of the people visiting are locals. This means that you might see the same faces on the same slot machines, or the same people crowding around table games.
There is a more localized feel to these locations in general. It can be fun to be around, but it offers a less thrilling environment and atmosphere. Tribal casinos tend to be a bit less sociable because the crowd isn’t made up of revelers coming from all over the world for one shot at Las Vegas.
Your behavior matters
In a typical casino in a major hub city, you have to be pretty awful to the staff to get thrown out. Why? Because if you are spending, you are likely to be tolerated on a much greater level. However, tribal casinos are still on tribal land; fail to respect the rules of the resort casino, and you will be asked to leave. Las Vegas security can only watch, report, and call the cops if things go south. With tribal casinos, they have far more power as tribal police are on hand to watch. They have the right to arrest you and are even typically fully armed.
Are there negatives to Native casino resort development?
Everything has pros and cons, and these casinos are no different. Native Americans have long been concerned that such a focus on casino gaming impacts their cultural heritage. While it does a lot to help local communities and to help return residents to their reservations, there are some concerns. Some believe it has played a role in making problem gambling and outright gambling addiction a major problem for the tribes. Indeed, reports and studies suggest that Native Americans suffer from gambling addiction more than almost any other group within American society.
As you can see, there are pros and cons to these facilities. For every roaring success story like the Seminole Hard Rock hotel, a smaller resort might suffer from a lack of opportunity. Like any other kind of casino resort, though, success comes down to ownership.
Like anything in America, there are pros and cons. While tribal casinos tend to be bastions for good in terms of helping out the community, they are linked to higher rates of addiction, theft, and bankruptcy within a 50-mile radius of a resort casino. For many resorts, though, these gaming options provide a much-needed revenue source that allows for old tribal culture to exist, even thrive.