Jack A. Cassin 5/4/99 Dr. Cordell ENG 104 Reservation Gambling Throughout the course of early United States history, settlers and the federal government have squeezed Indians from large tribal acreage to small settlements in desolate parts of our country. Eventually the federal government made distinct the boundaries of Indian land through treaties with the individual tribes. In the past two decades there has been an explosion of Native American Casinos and other gaming facilities on Indian reservations across the country. After years of poverty and high unemployment on these remote reservations, Native Americans now see gaming as a key part of tribal economies and the means to achieve self-sufficiency.
But this means of replenishing the Native American community has not come without a fight. American Indians have had to, and continue to, fight state and government officials over gaming rights. But their worst enemy could actually be themselves. Even though the Native Americans are recognized as a distinct political entity by the federal government, a community cursed with a history of compulsive gamblers should not be allowed to open high-stakes gambling casinos.
Gambling has long been a part of the Native American community. Tribes have a long history of wagering on sporting contests such as horse racing, running, and arrow-throwing as well as traditional games of chance... In most instances, traditional wagering occurred during tribal ceremonies, celebrations, or other special events (Cozzetto 76). This may be true, but gambling has never been depended on by any tribe; certainly not as a primary source of income. Reservation gambling began in the late 1970 s, offering high stakes bingo to the public. Prior to the bingo break through, state governments had complete control over gaming within their jurisdiction.
The fight continued, with only a few gaming establishments popping up, until the federal government steppe in. The federal government supported the idea of reservation gambling, and therefore suits brought against the state were answered. In 1988 the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was established by the federal government. Under the provisions of the act, states are required to negotiate gambling compacts with recognized tribal governments, if the proposed form of gambling is legal in that state, because the latter are nonprofit organizations (Pasquaretta 695).
So why does the federal government support Native Americans opening casinos on their reservations These tribes claim to use the proceeds from gaming for subsistence, cultural preservation, and to replenish their barren economy. Tribes claim to be using their revenue to establish college scholarships... construct health clinics and hospitals, build new schools and day-care centers, open hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and flower shops (Lawrence 1). Per capital are supposed to be distributed to tribal members monthly, only after maintenance, improvements, and investments have been made by the tribal government. However, this system has been bad-mouthed due to the per capita profits being squandered by tribal members instead of invested in long-term investments by the tribal government. Statistically speaking, only a small percentage of American Indians derive direct benefit from the operation of casinos (Lawrence 2).
Most of the Indian population working with the reservation gambling establishments, are employees only. The casinos are most commonly run by professional gaming managers, who take up to 30% of the total revenue. Besides the fact that one third of tribes currently own gaming establishments, unemployment is still at the extreme poverty rate of 45% (Lawrence 2). A major concern held by supporters and non-supporters alike is the corruption of these casinos by outside peoples. Organized crime, namely the mob and other corrupt owners are among those that add to the problem. With low federal standards for tribal casinos and a lack of federal regulators, these problems will continue to corrupt and steal from the tribal communities.
One of the biggest threats to the gaming establishments on the Native American reservations might be coming from themselves. In one case study, concerning two tribes from North Dakota, they compare the rate of pathological gambling activity in the Indian population to the rates for the general population of North Dakota (Cozzetto 74). Considerations that are incorporated into the study include location, that of being urban or geographically distant from a large population, and other aspects that would affect the outcome of the study. The results of the study concluded that the Indian population of North Dakota has a higher compulsive pathological gambling rate than the general population. This evidence is straightforward and to the point, American Indians have a higher tendency to be compulsive gamblers. If the federal government is responsible for this community then we should not let tribal governments operate casinos.
In response to scientific evidence and general worry about the Native American community, tribal governments are in fact trying to face these problems and stop them from the start. Problems including compulsive gambling, bad-credit, and alcoholism are among those that seem to fit the stereotype that these gambling establishments give to American Indians. Tribes have sought to counter these problems through the ways in which they advertise (some downplay enormous payoffs), prohibiting the sale and use of alcohol, prohibiting the use of checks or credit cards, prohibiting the development of tabs (credit) for regular customers, and educating persons against gambling addiction (Jorgensen 167). It seems that these tribal governments are taking responsibility for their peoples actions, but are rehab programs the answer The problem is not remedying the affect; it is the gambling operations themselves that spawn these problems. Why should we let these problems persist Why are we letting these people hurt themselves After extensive research and specific studies, it seems quite evident that we should not allow tribes to run casinos on reservation land. Native Americans are only being taken advantage of by professional casino operators and ignoring the slow but gradual problem of compulsive gambling so common to their own people.
The only way to combat the problem is to get rid of it. Reservation gambling has never been and should never be the primary source of economic growth in the Native American community.