Throughout the 19th century Native Americans saw their traditional livelihoods destroyed through forced removal and land theft by the government of the United States. Indian tribes turned to gaming to generate revenue in the 1960s and early 1970s. In 1988 the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act affirmed tribal government’s authority to use Indian gaming “to promote tribal economic development, tribal self sufficiency and strong tribal government.” (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act 25 U.S.C. secs 2701). Two hundred and thirty seven tribes operate 442 Indian gaming facilities according to NIGA, The National Indian Gaming Association. There are many who believe that all gambling is wrong. Indian gaming has had a significant positive effect on Native Americans nationwide by funneling money into programs allowing tribes to fund long neglected tribal services, create jobs and rebuild native communities.

Indian gaming has allowed native tribes to fund essential tribal services including housing, roads and basic maintenance. In 1990 at the Red Lake reservation in Minnesota, “residents were so poor that 41 percent of their homes lacked telephones and five percent had no indoor plumbing” (Minnesota Post). After a casino was built each member of the Red Lake tribal community receives $900-$2000 a month from casino profit sharing. The Minneapolis State Government Revenue Agency reported that from 1995-2000 “Median household income was up 213 percent to $30,422” (Minnesota Post). In 2009, tribal governments generated “26.2 billion in gross revenue from Indian gaming” (NIGA 2009). Another 3.2 billion in gross revenue was created from “related hospitality and entertainment services including resorts, hotels, restaurants, golf and entertainment complexes” (NIGA 2009). Gaming has given tribal leaders the ability to better provide for the health, education and welfare of native people. “Tribal governments also use gaming revenues to provide essential services, such as education, healthcare, police and fire protection to all tribal members from toddlers in daycare to grandmother's in elder care programs” according to a 2009 NIGA report. The revenue from Indian gaming has allowed native tribes across America to build schools, hospitals and community centers on reservations and in the community. In 2009 alone 15 schools were built in Mille Lacs Band Minnesota, Turtle Oneida, and a new K-12 school that reflects the culture of the Mescalero Apache Indians.

Historically Native Americans have had limited opportunities for employment because of many factors including the isolated locations of the reservations. Indian gaming has allowed native tribes to create millions of jobs. The trickle-down effect of Native American employment means that individual Native American families have more money to spend in their own communities spurring even more growth and prosperity. “Tribes use Indian gaming revenue as a catalyst to spur economic growth “(NIGA 2009). With the influx of money from gaming tribal governments have the money to promote native communities and create opportunities for their members. In 2009 “628,000 jobs nationwide were created for American Indians from tribal gaming” (NIGA 2009). Some jobs are created directly in the casinos or near gaming centers but thousands of other jobs are created in associated industries. The Seminole tribe of Florida has 17,000 of its tribe members employed in gaming or in related tribal enterprises. The Seminole tribe has almost “36% of its members employed in some capacity in the gaming industry”. (NIGA 2009). With increased employment there is a reduction in the federal government's burden of providing welfare to Native Americans.


Gaming money not only builds new schools it pays for much-needed heritage programs on reservations. The Pueblo of Santa Anna in New Mexico built a water system for the Yankton Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. Locally the Suquamish tribe here in Washington has built a 12,000 ft. schoolhouse and daycare center in Suquamish off Totten Road. The center offers everything from an early learning center for children to a head start class. The center teaches native Suquamish culture including drum making and the native language Lushootseed. Indian gaming “has brought back pride to the reservations across the US” (Knight Ridder Business News). Native Languages are being brought back to life and “Indian dance and culture are experiencing a rebirth” (Knight Ridder Business News). “Desolation and blight give way to self-suffiency and ethnic pride” (Knight Ridder Business News).

Indian owned casinos have put billions of dollars in the hands of tribes and provided millions of jobs over the past decade. Researchers studying the effects of Indian Gaming from Duke University found that “profit-sharing among all tribal members dramatically reduced poverty, while improving educational and behavioral outcomes for young Cherokee” (Partnerships for Native Health). All across America Native Americans are turning to gaming to generate revenue and in doing so have funded essential tribal services, created jobs and rebuilt native communities.

Works Cited

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