Pros and Cons of Tribal Casinos in America

Tribal casinos in America have many advantages such as economic growth and job creation. The problem is that they can increase corruption and the risk of gambling addictions. Some argue that the social costs and potential for addiction outweigh the benefits. It ultimately depends on the tribe itself and how it handles business. 

A source of revenue

Over 500 tribal casinos in the U.S. provide a source of revenue to tribal communities. Gaming revenue provides health care for the elderly, housing, and education for younger people. It helps with taking care of infrastructure such as roads and wastewater systems. Tribes are more self-reliant as they are able to provide for their members. In 2022, local communities benefited from more than $30 million from tribal gaming. 

Tribal casinos also pay a share of their revenue to local state governments in areas where they operate. Each tribal casino has its own contract with the state. For example, Gun Lake tribal casino has a contract with the state of Michigan. This applies to its land-based and Michigan online casino. Tribal casinos partner with reputable casino operators to ensure a professional and safe gambling experience. Many tribal casinos like Gun Lake also have other revenue drivers besides gambling such as hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues. 

A source of jobs

Looking at American Indian demographics shows that 14 U.S. states have over 100,000 American Indian or Alaska Native residents. They make up about 2% of the population of the U.S. The poverty rate for those living on reservations is nearly 30% compared with the national average of 15.3%. Jobs at tribal casinos can help to alleviate rampant poverty. 

The National Indian Gaming Association reports that about half of all employees at tribal casinos are Native Americans. Tribal casinos don’t just provide jobs to Native Americans but to individuals who live in areas surrounding tribes. In 2022, tribal casinos provided more than 680,000 jobs altogether. Of this nearly 40% were direct jobs and the rest were indirect jobs. Jobs are also bringing Native Americans back to tribal lands.

More crime and corruption

Tribal casinos can create a gap between those in a tribe who have wealth thanks to gaming and others who don’t. This has a social cost and can increase crime and corruption rates. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act does help to protect tribes against corruption and organized crime. It helps to ensure that gaming is fair and legitimate and that the tribe is the main beneficiary. 

Exiling of members

Sharing a common culture helps to bring unity in tribes. The introduction of tribal casinos can threaten this. Members of tribes receive a portion of gaming revenue. Alice Langton-Sloan, vice-president of the American Indian Rights and Resources Organization, says tribes will kick out or banish tribe members so they can get a greater share. 

More than 13,000 across the U.S. have been banished for various different reasons. A professor of Native American Studies at the University of Minnesota, David Wilkins, blames gambling revenue as the main cause for banishing tribe members. 

Health factors

Individuals addicted to gambling risk their mental and financial health. Constant access to casino games on reservation lands could increase this risk for Native Americans. Factors like poverty and unemployment contribute to the risks. Native Americans who live a traditional life have fewer problems with gambling. 

Traditional cultural activities are a protective factor. Many experts see tribal casinos as having the potential to help and hurt tribal communities. They bring in revenue and create jobs but they can also have social costs for a tribe. 

Richard Maxwell

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