How did gaming on Indian lands start?


Historically, gambling has always played a large role in the culture and traditions of many tribes. But in the late 1970's and early 1980's, several tribes began operating commercial bingo and poker games on their reservations. This occurred as state lotteries began growing throughout the country.  In 1987 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state civil gaming regulations did not apply to tribes conducting gaming on tribal reservation lands. That ruling was followed in 1988 by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). It says that if state law criminally prohibits a form of casino gambling, the tribes within that state may not engage in the activity. However, if state law civilly regulates a form of gambling then tribes within the state may engage in that gaming, subject to the tribal state compacts.  
IGRA created the National Indian Gaming Commission to regulate Indian gaming. It generally allows tribes to use Class II games, such as bingo. However, for casino-type gaming (Class III), tribes had to negotiate compacts with the states to determine games that could be played in compliance with IGRA. IGRA also stipulates how tribal Class III gaming revenues may be used.


How are revenues from Indian gaming used?


Like revenues gained from state lotteries, tribal governments use gaming to support basic public needs.Revenues are used by tribes to provide social service programs, scholarships and health care clinics as well as to build and maintain roads, sewer and water systems. Gaming dollars build adequate housing for members and supply health, welfare and educational programs. "Gaming is a proven economic engine that helps tribes throughout the state work toward self reliance," said Nora Helton, Fort Mojave tribal chairperson and president of the Intertribal Council of Arizona, Inc. "But gaming's impact isn't limited to tribal lands. Gaming allows us to make social contributions that are especially important because we are taught from childhood to help and respect other people. Gaming lets us support ourselves and our neighbors."


What follows is a sampling of how gambling dollars are being spent:
* The Yavapai Apache have renovated more than 80% of the homes on their reservation.

 * The Ak-Chin constructed 90 homes for tribal members school.


* The Tonto Apache Tribe provides medical benefits to tribal members and employees of the tribe.


The Pascua Yaqui and Ak-Chin constructed permanent dialysis centers.


* The Gila River Indian Community moved from a volunteer to a full-time trained fire 

With gaming revenues, tribes are supporting tribal members' business ventures. The Fort McDowell Yavapai and the Tohono O'odham Nations have established business loan and grant programs for tribal members to launch start-ups and expand existing member-owned businesses.


Tribes are showcasing their own cultures. The White Mountain Apache Tribe has developed a tribal museum as a major attraction for the Fort Apache.


* Gaming dollars are providing jobs. Gila River cut its unemployment rate from 40% in 1993 to 15% in 1999. The Tohono O'odham Nation has become the 15th largest employer in Tucson.

Arizona Republic, January 8, 2001
(shared by Gina Glaczko, Heard Museum)

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