Did You Know? Native American History of Gaming

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Native American casinos are a huge part of the US gaming industry. In fact, it’s fair to say that, given the legal restrictions around gambling in the US, Native American gaming is the leading force in the market. According to the Indian Gaming Commission, Native American-operated casinos represent 43% of all the casino income nationwide. Indian casinos are present in more than half of the states. Despite the strict regulations for gambling in the US, Native American gaming is an exception thanks to the Indian Gambling Regulatory Act of 1988.

The history of Native American gaming dates back to the 1970s. After some legal battles, the courts ultimately ruled in favor of the tribes. With other significant legal battles won in the 1980s, the Native American gaming market continued its expansion. Four decades later, it remains a very important source of income for hundreds of tribes across the US territory. Indian gaming is divided into three different classes, which range from bingo and charity games to Vegas-style gambling, including slots, roulette and table games.

Respecting Native Americans rights is a very important part of environmental and social responsibility. The tribes have always taught us a lot about sustainability, and continue to do so. Slothino is an environmentally and socially responsible casino brand, as we always try to raise awareness about important issues. Gaming continues to play a key role for Native Americans. Join us for a dive into the rich history of Native American gaming and learn more about its importance to the tribes.

Native American Gaming – A Brief History

Gambling has always been part of Native American culture. Shell and dice games, horse races and archery competitions all involved some form of gambling, making it a popular activity among the tribes. However, gaming only became a commercially viable alternative around the 1970s. The history of Indian casinos in the US actually ignited by a rather unusual spark.

It all started when a Chippewa couple, Russell and Helen Bryan, were taxed for property on Native land. The Bryans refused to pay and took legal action. After losing their case in the state district court and again in the Minnesota Supreme Court, the Bryans were granted review by the US Supreme Court. The Bryans v. Itasca County case of 1976 ended with an unanimous decision ruling that the state didn’t have the authority to regulate activities inside the Native territory. This decision opened the door for tribes to run their own gaming operations on reservations.

Following that, Native American-owned casinos, bingos and lotteries began to operate. Since the state had no authority inside the territory, these gaming halls could offer services according to their own rules. This naturally led to further legal battles, as Indian casinos and bingo halls offered jackpots that went well over the maximum allowed per state regulations. Other two prominent cases, Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Butterworth (1981) and California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians (1987) upheld the previous decision and ruled in favor of tribal sovereignty.

In 1988, Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which established the legal framework for Native American gaming. It again upheld tribal sovereignty, determining that it’s up to the federal government to regulate gaming on Indian territory. Despite allegations by state authorities, an FBI investigation proved that there were no links between organized crime and Indian casinos. The path was finally clear for economic development and self-sufficiency. Revenue for gaming on Native American reservations has grown by an impressive 320 times since then.

Positive Impact of Native American Gaming

Native American tribes did not have many economic opportunities and struggled with financial problems through the 19th century and the early 20th century. In a time when there were no real means to generate a reliable income, Native American gaming completely changed that. Indian casinos and bingo halls offered a chance to stimulate the economy on Native American territories.

The gaming market created jobs, increased tourism and also provided tribes with a substantial raise in their income. Since the revenue from Native American gaming must go towards improvements in the community, it’s fair to say that it plays an important role in social and economic development.

According to the National Indian Gaming Commission, tribes in 29 states are currently allowed to run gaming operations. In total, there are 524 Indian casinos in the US, owned by 245 tribes. The annual revenue from Native American gaming exceeds the $30 billion mark, which is quite remarkable. Funds also go towards other state programs, helping local communities and also tribes that do not run gaming operations. Native American gaming had a positive impact, and will likely continue to do so in the future.

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