Why There are Casinos on Native American Reservations

Among many stereotypes associated with Native Americans is their relationship with casinos and gambling. Indeed, while many American casinos operate on Native American soil, just as many do not. However, given how little land Native Americans control, the ratio of casinos is higher than on non-Native American soil. 

The history and reasons behind this are complex. Here is a brief explanation about why so many Native American reserves feature casinos:

A state within a state

To explain a Native American’s sovereignty, think of it as the Vatican City. Situated in the heart of Rome, the Vatican City, home to the Catholic church’s administration, is an independent state within Italy’s borders. Native American reservations operate on a similar principle. They are administered independently despite being within American borders.

Due to different gambling laws applying to Native American reservations, opening casinos became possible after the Federal Indian Gaming Regulation Act (IGRA) was passed in 1988. Now that legislation allowing Michigan online casino gambling has been passed, Native American casinos there are taking their operations online.

The IGRA allowed Native American tribes to open casinos in states where such facilities were not permitted. For many years, these were the only brick-and-mortar casinos people could visit to enjoy some gambling fun.  

Historical context

It is universally agreed that Native Americans lost out when European settlers arrived in North America. They were forced from their fertile lands, killed in their millions, and had their history and traditions all but decimated by draconian laws that saw Native American children forcibly removed from their parents to assimilate into Western culture. 

The American government offered them restitution in the form of land where they would govern themselves. Naturally, no amount of land could make up for what had happened. Indeed, what Native Americans received was a paltry effort at righting such a devastating wrong. The sending of festive gifts to mark Thanksgiving means something very different to Native American tribes as it symbolizes the loss of everything their people held dear.  The Native Americans living on these reservations did so in abject poverty amid mass unemployment, inferior education, limited healthcare, and substance abuse. 

Value of the Native American casinos

Their leaders saw casinos as a revenue-generating force that would provide Native Americans with better living standards. Profits from the casino industry are used for infrastructure development and allowing residents access to better services.

Native American casinos have also led to substantial job creation across reservations. Direct employment comes from those who work at the casino. In addition, these facilities have created indirect employment opportunities for companies supplying these casinos with auxiliary services, including accommodation, transport, and catering. Many visitors also explore Native American culture by visiting museums.

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