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Spectacular Rise of Tribal Casinos because of Regulatory Laws

Twenty years have passed since Ronald Reagan signed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act into law. At the time most of the lawmakers were under the impression that the future of Indian gaming was high stakes bingo.

Indian casinos employ a massive 700,000 workers and had revenue of $26 billion just in the last year. Compare that to Nevada casinos which collected $12.8 billion and New Jersey casinos at only $4.9 billion.

The object of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was to protect Nevada casinos from competition, what has occurred in reality is just the opposite. Indian casinos have become a major force to be reckoned with in the gaming industry.

Some gaming companies have seen an opportunity and have offered management services to the tribes, notably Harrah’s and Boyd Gaming Corp. Indian gaming officials still see the legislation as a violation of tribal rights. Ernie Stevens Jr, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association says it is outrageous that any business should have a federal law to conduct its business.

The ruling in California v Cabazon Band of Mission Indians in 1987 said that federally recognized tribes could conduct gambling businesses without state regulation. This led to states asking Congress to help as they saw themselves unable to control gambling within their borders.

The resultant piece of legislation is what law professor Kevin Washburn calls “one of the ugliest pieces of legislation there is”. A law which aimed to encourage tribes and states to negotiate regulations for Indian gaming has failed. The tribes are vehemently opposed to any amendments to the regulatory act that has helped them to become economically independent.

OCA News Editor