Pros of Indian Gambling for Tribal Governments and Communities

IGRA requires that the revenues generated by Indian gambling facilities be used to fund tribal government operations and programs, the general welfare of the Indian tribe and its members, and tribal economic development, among other uses. This includes essential governmental services such as education, health, and infrastructure improvements. 71 According to the Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission, many tribes have used their revenues “to build schools, fund social services, provide college scholarships, build roads, provide new sewer and water systems, and provide for adequate housing for tribal members.” 72

Many tribes are providing more basic services. One example is the Prairie Island Indian Community. Their representative testified before the Commission’s Subcommittee on Indian Gambling that:
We no longer rely only on government funding to pay for the basics. We have used gaming proceeds to build better homes for our members, construct a community center and an administration building, develop a waste water treatment facility and build safer roads. We are also able to provide our members with excellent health care benefits and quality education choices.… We are currently working with the [Mayo Clinic] on a diabetic study of Native Americans. We can provide chemical dependency treatment to any tribal member who needs assistance. And our education assistance program allows tribal members to choose whatever job training, college, or university they wish to attend. 73

A representative of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians also testified that:
Our gaming revenues provide such government services as police, fire, and ambulance to our reservation, neighbors and casino. Earnings from gaming have paved roads, provided electricity, sewage lines, clean water storage, recycling, trash disposal, natural habitat replacement, and watershed and other environmental improvements to our lands. 74

Other tribal governments report the development of sewage management projects, energy assistance, housing, job training, conservation, education, native language programs, and many other services that previously were absent or poorly funded before the introduction of gambling. There also has been an emphasis by many tribes on using gambling revenues for preserving cultural practices and strengthening tribal bonds. 75

For some, Indian gambling provides substantial new revenue to the tribal government. 76 For others, Indian gambling has provided little or no net revenue to the tribal government, but has provided jobs for tribal members. One estimate of employment at Indian gambling facilities puts the figure at 100,000 jobs. Indian gambling provides jobs for Indian tribal members in areas where unemployment has often exceeded 50 percent of the adult age population. Many of the casinos also employ non-Indian people and therefore can have a significant positive economic impact on surrounding communities, as well as for many small businesses near Indian reservations. 77

71 25 U. S. C. §2701( 11)( B)( i-v). 72 Tadd Johnson, (now former Chairman), Testimony Before the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Boston, Mass. (March 16, 1998). 73 Carrel Campbell, Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Indian Gambling. National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Las Vegas, Nev. (Nov. 9, 1998) (Secretary of the Prairie Island Indian Community). 74 Anthony R. Pico, Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Indian Gambling, National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Las Vegas, Nev. (Nov. 9, 1998) (Chairman of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians). 75 Ibid., note 50, and Hilary Osborn, Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Indian Gambling of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, Las Vegas, Nev. (Nov. 9, 1998) (Chairman of the Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians). 76 See, Sean Paige, Gambling on the Future, Insight on the News, 8. (Dec. 22, 1997). 77 “Economic Contributions of Indian Tribes to the Economy of Washington State,” Veronica Tiller, Ph. D., Tiller Research, Inc., and Robert A. Chase, Chase Economics (1999). This study was a partnership effort commissioned by the State of Washington and the Washington state tribal governments. See also, “Economic Benefits of Indian Gaming in the State of Oregon,” James M. Klas and Matthew S. Robinson (June 1996) and “Statistics on the Economic