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Monday, September 25, 2023

Casinos Catching Wal-Mart Expansion Fever!

by Bobbie Hart O’Neill Just like Wal-Marts, tribal casinos and their entertainment enterprises are sprouting up all over the nation redefining what it means to be an Indian in an urban America. For tribal members, these effects are mostly positive but they are having an effect on the white communities through the unwillingness of some tribes to consider how their gambling empires are affecting the world outside their Indian nations. This attitude may soon threaten the future of the industry.       Outsiders are beginning to question the $19 billion collective revenue created by the nation-wide Indian gaming interests. It’s not only the average Joe whose economic windfalls or losses are created at casinos but VIPs – like Senator John McCain(R-AZ) chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee – are demanding answers from the tribes as to why individual tribal revenues are not reported.      Many tribes are aggressively pursuing loopholes in the 1998 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to expand casino operations into urban regions on properties apart from existing tribal trust land. Casinos are expanding or attempting to expand into places like downtown Oakland, CA and downtown Denver CO. The most obvious problem is that this trend violates the implicit expectation of the community, as a whole, that gambling would be limited to existing tribal lands.       There is a growing if not explicit danger that some tribes are beginning to threaten the goose that lays the “golden slots.” Some tribal leaders fear another expected consequence of success: Continued expansion may bring into question the legitimacy of a tribal monopoly on gambling enterprises in the first place.      The Senator’s committee is considering proposed changes to the existing tribal gaming act. One matter in dispute stands out above the others: Tribal resistance to transparency which in this case applies to tribal gaming questions and answers of revenue and bookkeeping.       These issues, which have been on the hot-seat as gaming revenue increases each year, are actually a two-way street. If tribal gaming is to continue to benefit the tribes’ own communities, their leaders must recognize the impact of their widely expanding casino growth on the world around them. In the best interests of the Native Community, the time has come for the gaming tribal leaders to account for their actions.  This column was edited for content and length based on an editorial appearing in the June 30th edition of The Arizona ublic. Bobbie O’ Neill is the editor of Native Unity Blogspot based in Yuma, Arizona. She is also a CSMS Magazine staff writer. 

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