Native Americans and Gambling

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When considering the United States and Americans in general, there are a number of catch phrases which seem to fly around: melting pot, salad bowl, hyphen-Americans, non hyphen Americans, etc. The American ethnic identity is ambiguous as it is fixed to a solid belief in the United States. Nowhere can this be more seen as in the national census, which is carried out every few years. The form essentially is a product of American ethnic history.

Yet recent years witnessed a striking development in ethnical identification. People are searching their ancestral trees to find the slightest clue that they might have Native American blood in them. Many are hoping to link themselves to a tribe. Some are going so far as search for people who’s ancestors might have belonged to the same tribe. This is by no means a nostalgic search to part of American indigenous roots, rather the fact that Indians or Native American’s have the right to host and operators gambling or gaming resorts on their reservations.

This development is one of the greatest ironies in American legislative and constitutional history. Article I of the Constitution states that “Congress has the power to regulate commerce of Foreign Nations and with Indian Tribes.” Obviously, Native Americans still fall under federal government jurisdiction when commerce is considered, despite their sovereign entity status. Native Americans found a gold-mine loophole in gambling which effectively utilizes the limitations and possibilities of the reservation. The reservation does not fall under the jurisdiction of the local or state authorities, which also means they are exempt from all local, state, and federal taxes. As a result, gambling is one of the first real tools that Native Americans have discovered to gain back their economic self-sufficiency and self-respect without the aid of the federal government.

This has, however, also caused much controversy. In 1983 the Cabazon tribe, on its Southern California reservation, opened the first high stakes Bingo. Other tribes followed suit, creating much controversy between the tribes and the federal government for somewhat obvious reasons. Gaming is a proven way to generate substantial tax-free income, and because this is carried out on a reservation Native Americans do not have to report comprehensive income. The figures of gaming income in public literature are only estimates that range from $10 million in profits to billions in profits. The Native American casino is a thriving industry. Native American reservations offer casinos, bingo, gaming, and resorts, as well as other businesses related to the gaming industry such as hotels and restaurants.

Gambling is big business for Native Americans; some of the Casinos on the reservations are the most profitable in the world. Of course Native American’s see the economic possibilities in the Casinos despite attempts to root gambling into their cultural roots. Indeed many argue that gaming has long been a part of the Native American culture and remains so. Native Americans regard gaming as part of their culture and part of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. They also regard gaming as important to the health of their tribal culture overall. Further to this, they counter stereotypes by insisting that although substance and alcohol abuse do exist within Indian gaming communities, however many of the proceeds received through gaming is donated to the Indian community and charitable programs including substance abuse treatment programs. In all earnest, this is a convenient truth and is a feeble argument to find a cultural legitimacy and social awareness for a booming business.