While some states are cashing in on tribal gaming, opponents are betting on trouble ahead. The American Gaming Association argues their latest report shows it is an industry the country should double-down on.
“There is a belief that it is a very small, sort of niche industry, that the casino industry is tiny…but in retrospect it is massive,” said Sara Slane, vice president of public affairs at AGA.
Slane says 45-percent of all gaming revenue in the U.S. comes from tribes. She says they generated $105 billion and created nearly 680,000 jobs in 2016. That, she says, is not just a win for tribes, but also for towns, cities, states, and the federal government.
“Gaming has given us the opportunity to diversify our economic options and to grow our communities,” said Sheila Morago, a founding partner at Trilogy Group.
Morago works on economic development with reservations in Oklahoma. She says of all the things they have tried to boost way of life on reservations, gaming has been most successful.
But anti-gambling groups say Americans are betting against the house, in this case the federal government.
“By almost every measure, it’s been a spectacular failure,” said Les Bernal, national director of Stop Predatory Gambling.
Bernal says government sanctioned gaming may help float government budgets, but does so at the expense of the American people. He says running casinos is not the golden ticket that will bring Native Americans out of poverty.
“The only people that benefit from commercialized gambling, whether it’s tribal run, whether it’s state lotteries or commercialized casinos, are the folks that run the games,” said Bernal.
Tribal gaming currently takes place in 28 states. Further expansion may be in the cards.