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Out of 52 states, only 30 U. Another two states have pending tribal casinos. Oklahoma has the highest number of tribal casinos. In my state-by-state article on Oklahoma slots , I list the largest tribal casinos. Oklahoma has many other convenience stores and truck stops which identify themselves as casinos. With 66 sites, California has the second highest number of tribal casinos of any U.

It has only tribal casinos and no non-tribal commercial casinos. Massachusetts and Virginia both have their first tribal casino pending for various reasons, either legal issues or searching for a suitable site. Alaska and Maine have only tribal bingo halls. In , the U. This federal law provides tribes and states with a legal framework to develop tribal gaming. It is the reason the U. American Indian cultures have always included gambling. Before the IGRA, and a driving force behind establishing it, tribes began to generate gaming revenue and profit.

This tribal gaming mostly began with tribes opening bingo halls. However, such swift growth led to abuses. When states began lobbying the U. Congress to regulate tribal gaming, after more than a few compromises the IRGA was born. President Ronald Reagan signed it into law on October 18, The U. Constitution gives the federal government the right to interact with American Indian tribes.

However, U. Supreme Court and U. Supreme Court decisions provided additional clarity, which also helped lead to the establishment of the IGRA. However, what establishes that a tribal community is, in fact, an American Indian tribe? Who decides? How do they choose? Perhaps more importantly, how can this process be consistent? Even today, this decision-making is fraught with difficulties. Department of the Interior.

The BIA sets the criteria for federal recognition of tribes. Limitations on these rights are the same as those for states. There are currently bands and tribes recognized by the federal government as American Indian. The last increase in the number of tribes occurred in early when six new tribes received federal recognition.

Only federally-recognized tribes may use the IGRA to negotiate a tribal-state gaming compact with their state. A compact is a negotiated agreement between two legal entities. In this case, a federally-recognized tribe and the state in which it resides negotiate a tribal-state gaming compact. Once settled, the U. Department of the Interior must approve all compacts. However, thanks to the IGRA, not all tribal casinos need a gaming compact. Because it depends on the type of gaming offered.

Or, more accurately, its classification. The IGRA defined gaming classifications which, as a federal law, makes these commonly held definitions for all U. In brief,. Class III tribal gaming requires a tribal-state gaming compact. Class I tribal ceremonies do not. But, Class II games may require a gaming compact, depending on the state.

Tribal compacts are the result of often lengthy negotiations, after all. The negotiations include whether non-tribal gaming exists in the state. If not, compact talks can be an uphill battle. If non-tribal gaming exists, tribes may only negotiate for those Class III games already approved by the state at non-tribal casinos.

Overcoming this limitation can be lots of work. In part, compact negotiations include a desire by the state to protect the income of existing non-tribal casinos. These can be lobbying efforts by those casinos or just protecting state income taxes from gaming revenue. The owner of each tribal casino is one or more federally-recognized American Indian tribe, band, or pueblo. Who operates the casino? Sometimes, a tribe decides to let a professional casino operator run their tribal casino.

There are solid business reasons to take this approach. While the casino operator takes a cut of revenue, a professionally run casino can generate quite a bit more profit to share. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians owns both tribal casinos. Caesars Entertainment is one of the largest casino operator conglomerates in the world, along with MGM Resorts International. For instance, they own and operate most casinos on the Las Vegas strip.

These operators also have assets to share. It may be small or large, but they all have one. A Caesars Reward club card holder gets more and more interesting complimentary gifts than a tribal casino could provide alone. With it, the tribe gains credibility and gives value to their guests.

Because a significant casino operator does not have to go through the expense of setting up a rewards club program. After all, their rewards program already has millions of members. A significant casino operator need not be a non-tribal organization.

The eight casinos MGE operates are:. In general, this means they have tribal laws, courts, and police. If caught cheating at a tribal casino, you would expect to go to jail. But, would you expect tribal jail? Further, what are your expectations regarding tribal courts? If you get in legal trouble at a tribal casino, reach out to Robert Nersesian for legal help.

I fully disclose that I am an Amazon Affiliate. Meaning, using the link above means I earn a bit of income. However, Mr. Nersesian has not paid me to promote him. I just like his work. What might happen if someone cheats at a tribal casino? Naturally, the tribal police will take you to tribal jail. If you are not a member of the tribe, you next discover you have no constitutional rights to due process or other protections.

Perhaps you leisurely read through the above section on the IGRA and the rights given to federally-recognized tribes. If you gamble at tribal casinos, maybe you should reread those a little more closely. To understand actual use of tribal gaming profits, consider each state having a non-tribal gaming industry. How well do those states use their non-tribal gaming profits?

Well, it depends on the state. Not all states are doing particularly well with their use of non-tribal gaming revenue. Some are an excellent example to other states. Others, not so much. The care and quality of state gaming regulations, or lack of care and quality, determines their success. There are only 56 U. In my non-legal opinion, even Utah is a U. Because Utah has at least one state gaming regulation: All forms of gambling are illegal.

When it comes to using gaming profits, American Indian tribes are like U. It depends. However, there are ten times more federally recognized tribes than U. Under the IGRA, bands and tribes with federal recognition unite at a national level. This federal law is common amongst all of them in terms of supporting tribal economic development.

There is no such common law for state gaming regulations. Because of common federal law, perhaps there is more abuse among the states than across ten times as many tribes. The difficulty is the considerable investment needed to know the differences. A similar ruling was issued in Oneida Tribe of Indians v. State of Wisconsin F. Both cases concluded that the states' gambling laws were regulatory, or civil, in nature rather than criminal, because the states already allowed bingo games to take place.

Other tribes also sued, and the issue eventually reached the U. Supreme Court. In California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians U. The act allows federally recognized tribes to open gambling establishments on their reservations if the state in which they are located already permits legalized gambling. It set up a regulatory system and three classes of gambling activities:. Class I gaming is regulated exclusively by the tribes and requires no financial reporting to other authorities.

Class II and III games are allowed only if such games are already permitted in the state where the tribe is located. Government Accountability Office GAO , the investigatory branch of Congress, court rulings have maintained that tribes can operate casinos where state-run lotteries exist and charitable casino nights are permitted.

In addition, Class III gaming requires that the tribe and state have an agreement, called a tribal-state compact or treaty , that is approved by the U. A compact is supposed to balance the interests of the state and the tribe in regard to standards for operation and maintenance, the applicability of state and tribal laws and regulations, and the amount needed by the state to defray its regulatory costs. Tribes may have compacts with more than one state and may have different compacts for different types of gambling operations.

Native American casinos are regulated at three levels of government: federal, state, and tribal. Federal regulation is performed by the NIGC, which oversees the licensing of gaming employees and management and reviews tribal gaming ordinances. The NIGC also has enforcement powers. For example, in June the commission temporarily closed a casino operated by the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians in Redwood Valley, California, for allegedly operating Class III gambling devices without a compact with the state.

However, most violations do not result in closure, but in notification followed by fines. In , for instance, the Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi-Yokut Tribe was found in violation for failing to conduct proper background checks on casino employees. Most violations concern tribes' failure to submit annual audits by required deadlines.

The federal government also has criminal jurisdiction over cases involving embezzlement, cheating, and fraud at tribal gaming operations, because such crimes are federal offenses. State regulation is spelled out in the tribal-state compacts.

They cover matters such as the number of slot machines that may be operated; limits on types and quantities of card games that can be offered; minimum gambling ages in the casinos; authorization for casino workers to unionize; public health and safety issues; compulsive gambling issues; the effects of tribal gaming on other state enterprises; and how much revenue should be paid to the state and how often. The tribes themselves are the primary regulators of tribal gaming.

Native American casinos must be a tribal endeavor, not an individual endeavor — that is, a random group of Native Americans cannot start a tribal casino. Only a tribe's status as a sovereign entity, granted by the federal government , allows it to conduct gaming. Department of the Interior.

Throughout U. Most tribes were officially recognized during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Federal recognition is important to Native American tribes if they are to be eligible for billions of dollars in federal assistance. If a tribe does not have a land base, the federal government can take land in trust for the tribe once it receives recognition.

That land is no longer subject to local jurisdiction, including property taxes and zoning ordinances. Some tribes require proof of line-age. The BIA states that in federally recognized tribes had approximately 1. One of the most contentious issues related to tribal casinos is the authenticity of the tribes themselves.

Critics charge that some Native American groups want. There were tribes with gambling facilities in The GAO indicates that the procedures established by the BIA in to ensure that the recognition of tribes be uniform and objective had become too long and inconsistent.

Backlogs became constant because the number of petitions for recognition began to climb during the s. Because tribes are sovereign governments, they are not required by law to make public statements of their revenues, so financial information on individual tribal casinos is not publicly released.

Each year the NIGC announces total gaming revenue from the previous year for all tribal gaming facilities combined. It also breaks down the revenue by U. This revenue is broken down by region in Table 5. See Table 5. Because there are no tribal casinos in northern Nevada, all of this revenue was actually from California tribal casinos.

Tribes with gaming operations may distribute gaming revenues to individual tribe members through per capita payments but are not required to do so. Such payments must be approved by the U. Building casinos can be expensive. These five- to seven-year contracts can also be renewed if both parties and the state government agree to the renewal.

Nearly one-third of the contracts were with gaming companies based in Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada. Harrah's Entertainment was a partner in six of these contracts. Native American casinos have often faced fierce opposition from commercial casino operators hoping to thwart competition. For example, tribal casinos in California could cut deeply into the Nevada casino business because California residents, who have long provided a large share of Nevada's gambling revenue, could gamble closer to home.

However, some commercial casino operators have seen expanded opportunities for revenue through partnerships with Native American tribes, and some tribes — especially small tribes — have welcomed the investment capital and management experience offered by commercial partners.

The casino, which opened in June , is owned by the United Auburn Indian Community, which has around adult members. The casino was financially backed and managed by Station Casinos of Las Vegas. Before the casino opened, tribe members lived in poverty on a 3-acre 1. However, with the casino came full health, dental, and vision insurance for each tribe.

Gaming revenues also funded the United Auburn Indian Community Tribal School, which has a teacher-student ratio of 1 to 7. The casino is building on its success. Casino ventures between companies and small tribes are particularly controversial. The California Nations Indian Gaming Association insists that small tribes should not be denied the tremendous economic opportunities offered by casinos.

Another hot topic is the construction of tribal casinos on land outside reservations. Many of these tribes had casinos on their reservations and were looking to expand into different markets, many closer to major cities. To build a new casino on nonreservation land, tribes must convince the BIA that they have claim to a parcel of land where they would like to build the new casino. The BIA can then put the land into a trust for the tribe.

House of Representatives considered two bills, H. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. On June 25, , the House failed to pass the bills, preventing the expansion of off-reservation gambling. Tribal casinos are not required by law to make their financial records public.

Even though exact figures are not known, various reports indicate that the tribal casinos operating in Connecticut are extremely profitable. As of June , only two tribal casinos were operating in Connecticut. Both are located in a rural area of eastern Connecticut.

In it had 6 casinos, 1, hotel rooms, 25 large conference rooms, a spa, a golf and country club, a shopping mall, dozens of restaurants, and a 1,seat theater. Foxwoods had over seven thousand slot machines, four hundred gaming tables, and the world's largest bingo hall.

It also offers keno and sports gambling. The resort receives about forty thousand visitors every day. The complex also included a ten-thousand-seat arena, a showroom, an extensive retail complex, and its own gas station. Foxwoods in particular has an interesting history. The law was championed by the Mothers against Drunk Driving organization to encourage high schools to hold casino-type events following proms to reduce drunk driving by teenagers.

Foxwoods opened in At that time, slot machines were not permitted. In the tribe negotiated a deal with Lowell P. Weicker Jr. By Foxwoods was considered the largest and most profitable casino in the United States. The Mohegan tribe also signed in its own compact with Weicker to operate a casino.

The Mashantucket Pequots granted the Mohegan tribe permission to include slot machines in its new casino. In return, the. The Mohegan Sun opened in after receiving financing from Kerzner. The Mashantucket Pequot's standing as a tribe is not without controversy.

In Without Reservation: How a Controversial Indian Tribe Rose to Power and Built the World's Largest Casino , Jeff Benedict claims that the Pequots never should have been legally recognized as a tribe by the federal government because some members were not actually descendants of the historic Pequot tribe.

The tribe achieved its recognition by an act of Congress. Benedict made his allegations a major part of his unsuccessful run for Congress during the summer of CAACE also seeks federal legislation to reform the tribal recognition process.

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Controversies involving Indian gaming operations per se have generally focused instead on whether the unique legal status of tribes, which allows them the privilege of owning and operating such businesses, should be retained or discontinued; whether Indians have sufficient acumen or training to run such businesses; whether engaging in entrepreneurial capitalism inherently undercuts indigenous ethnic identities; and whether gaming is a desirable addition to a specific local economy.

The unusual legal status of Native American tribes was determined by the U. Supreme Court in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia As a result of this decision, a preponderance of policy issues related to the regulation of Native American economics, politics, religion, education—and indeed all aspects of indigenous life—are ultimately overseen by the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and decided in the federal court system.

Most important in the context of gaming, the U. These compacts allow states to take a percentage of casino revenues, which may be between 10 and 25 percent of total profits. Although indigenous nations have lost most federal court battles, Indian gaming is one area in which the judiciary has generally found in favour of tribes. Supporters of Indian casinos emphasize that the gaming profits that rest upon such legal decisions have, for the first time since colonization, allowed some native communities to become economically independent and thereby to take positive steps toward self-determination, community building, and political empowerment.

By contrast, opponents believe that the unique legal status of tribes is unfair, unnecessary, or, in some cases, simply an undesirable artifact of judicial history. Another area of contention concerns the business savvy of Indians. Critics charge that tribal governments have been repeatedly defrauded by corrupt bureaucrats , staff, board members, consultants, and the like; according to the same critics, this has happened in large part because tribal members are inept or uneducated and tend to factionalize when dealing with controversy.

Such paternalistic arguments are sometimes augmented by invoking historical data that show casinos, restaurants, and other cash-based businesses to be particularly susceptible to embezzlement or to being co-opted by organized crime. Proponents of Indian gaming agree that many tribes have been defrauded over the past several centuries but argue that such losses result from the activities of criminals and others of shady intent rather than from indigenous gullibility.

They point out that many people were exploited by the Abramoff ring and that it was so deeply entwined with the federal government that nothing short of a major investigation would have exposed it. Indeed, officials from the House of Representatives, Department of the Interior, and White House subsequently served prison time for their roles in the Abramoff scandal, while Representative Tom DeLay , House majority leader —05 , resigned in its wake but admitted no culpability.

With such examples in mind, advocates for Indian gaming argue that, both legally and morally, native nations should be treated no differently than are state governments and private casino owners and hence should be allowed to profit from and risk capital in gambling in the same ways. Indian gaming Article Media Additional Info. Article Contents.

Print print Print. Table Of Contents.


Congress took up the issue of tribal gaming and conducted a series of hearings, ultimately culminating in the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of Embodied in the Act was a compromise between state and tribal interests. The states were offered a voice in determining the scope and extent of tribal gaming by requiring tribal-state compacts for Class III gaming, but tribal regulatory authority over Class II gaming was preserved in full.

The Act further provided for general regulatory oversight at the federal level and created the National Indian Gaming Commission as the primary responsible federal agency. Enacted in as Public Law and codified at 25 U. The Act established three classes of gaming with a different regulatory scheme for each.

Class I gaming is defined as traditional Indian gaming and social gaming for minimum prizes. Regulatory authority over Class I gaming is vested in tribal governments. Class II gaming is defined as the game of chance commonly known as bingo which may include the use of electronic, computer, or other technological aids and if played in the same location as the bingo, pull tabs, punch boards, tip jars, instant bingo, and other games similar to bingo.

Class II gaming also includes non-banked card games, that is, games that are played exclusively against other players rather than the house or a player acting as a bank. The Act specifically excludes slot machines or electronic facsimiles of any game of chance from the definition of Class II games. The Tribes possess the authority to conduct, license, and regulate Class II gaming, so long as the state in which the tribe is located permits such gaming for any purpose and the tribal government adopts a gaming ordinance approved by the Commission.

Tribal governments are the primary regulator for Class II gaming. The definition of Class III gaming is extremely broad. Games commonly played in casinos, such as slot machines, blackjack, craps, and roulette, would clearly fall in the Class III category, as well as electronic facsimiles of any game of chance. Before any tribe may lawfully conduct Class III gaming, the following conditions must be met. As of December 31, , there were tribes operating gaming facilities on and off reservations.

In 8 of these states, the only casinos in the state are on Indian reservations. Ten of the tribes accounted for over half of this total. For purposes of comparison, in the Class III Indian gaming facilities casino-type gaming generated about the same total amount in gaming revenues as the 12 Atlantic City casinos, and surpassed them in Of these facilities, 8 accounted for almost half of the total revenues. This uneven distribution of revenue earned by individual casinos is similar to that of the industry in Nevada, where a handful of the licensed casinos account for the bulk of the gambling revenues, and unlike that of the Atlantic City casinos, which are far more equal in their share of the local business.

It need be noted that there is no regular, comprehensive reporting of income, expenditures, etc. Many of the figures in the public literature ascribed to Indian gaming are estimates based on dubious statistics. The most reliable information comes from a General Accounting Office GAO study in which reported accurate data for the first time.

No ongoing reporting source of accurate information is as yet in place. In addition to purposes such as regulating an industry recently brought into existence and beyond the reach of state regulators, IGRA's proponents wanted to use gambling as a means of providing money for financing tribal governments, which often had little or no tax base, and also as part of a general effort to promote the economic self-sufficiency of the tribes.

For this and other reasons, the IRS has determined that for purposes of income taxation, the gambling income of the Indian tribes and their federally-chartered corporations the form casinos usually take are not subject to federal income tax. Some tribes have chosen to distribute all or a portion of the tribe's net income from gambling to individual tribal members. However, distributions of tribal money to individual members can only be done if approved by the Secretary of the Interior, following criteria set forth in IGRA.

Money received by individual members of the tribes is fully subject to federal income tax. Without question, Native American reservations have some of the highest rates of poverty, unemployment, welfare dependency, school dropout, alcoholism, and other indicators of poverty and social distress of any communities in the U. Many are located in remote areas with little indigenous economic activity. Given this background, it is not surprising that gambling has been seized upon by many tribes, as it is one of the few proven and available means of generating income for them.

The prospect of sudden wealth after seemingly endless poverty has given the disputes an element of emotional immediacy that the complex and intransigent constitutional issues themselves probably would lack. The issue of economic benefit is further complicated by the fact that much of this accrues not to the tribes or their members but to outside individuals, such as non-Indian locals who usually comprise the overwhelming majority of workers in Indian casinos, and the non-Indian corporations which are the usual operators of the casinos.

Under federal law, the individual states have little or no authority over Indian reservations, including the ability to tax or regulate gambling or any other activity. For example, state officials, including the police, cannot exercise their authority on a reservation without tribal permission.

Although in theory the several states can ban any form of gambling throughout their territory, in practice the lack of authority of state officials over reservations makes enforcement difficult there. Because the Supreme Court's decision in Cabazon threatened to create islands of virtually unregulated gambling throughout the U. Other issues may be included. For example, states have typically required tribes to surrender any outstanding land claims in return for approving the compact. This measure has produced controversy of its own.

Some states have been accused of using this proviso to prevent the opening of all or some specific type of gaming facilities, both on and off reservations, either by refusing to negotiate with the tribes, or by allegedly presenting unreasonable conditions. For their part, some tribes do not want their gambling activities to be restricted at all by any state, however accommodating it may in fact be. The Interior Department recently announced a plan to give the Secretary of the Interior the power to bypass those state governments which have not negotiated "in good faith" and directly grant permission to any Indian tribe petitioning to open a gambling facility.

This proposed measure has drawn strong protests from several states and raises important issues concerning state and federal constitutional law. This measure is separate from the subject of current investigations into possible campaign finance irregularities in involving Indian casinos. Indian gaming also directly concerns both the legal and actual power of the federal and states governments to regulate economic and social activities.

States may be powerless to prevent gambling activities on reservations that the citizens and legislature of the state have decided to ban or to regulate, and the federal government may be unwilling or unable to assist this effort. This far-from-abstract question has entered another level this year with the opening by the Coeur d'Alene tribe in Idaho of a site on the Internet for gambling, the first in the U. This innovation promises to test all sorts of issues, including the ability of state and federal governments to regulate the Internet.

As the name U. Lottery indicates, this is billed as a national lottery, available not only on the Internet but also over the phone. A series of additional games are planned for the site.

Tribal gaming, as we think of it today, dates back to the s when a number of Indian tribes established bingo operations as a means of raising revenue to fund tribal government operations.

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