History

How Gambling Changed the Lives of Many Native Americans

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There are varying perspectives on how the Native American population has impacted the gambling world. First, it is important to understand the events that led to this impact being possible and the succeeding actions that followed. As the name suggests, the Native American people were the first inhabitants of what is modern day America. The Native Americans lived amongst each other in various tribes depending on the region of the land in which they inhabited.

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Fast forward to the end of the 15th century, when Europeans began to migrate over to today’s America and the two cultures collided. As time passed, the European settlers were making attempts to take over the land and the Native American people. By the 1800’s Native Americans were forced off of their homelands into land that had instead been set aside for them by the Europeans, called reservations. The reservations were mapped out spaces of land that were allocated to be a new “home” for the Native American people where they could operate under their familiar culture while being separate from the rest of the nation. This later led to what some might call a silver lining in an otherwise gloomy and inhumane situation.

In the 1970’s, the Seminole tribe, living in the state of Florida, decided to open up a high-stake bingo gaming ring. Gambling, at the time, was illegal in the state of Florida so this was opposed by the authorities. In 1979, however, the Supreme Court ruled that nothing could be done to stop the Native Americans from running this gambling operation, as they did not have the rights to regulate what occurred on Native American land. The original idea behind placing the Native Americans on this land (though often in tough climates and on infertile soil) was to allow them to live life as they pleased so long as it was out of the European settlers way. Once this loophole was highlighted,the Native Americans were able to host otherwise illegal gaming on their land. In the year 1987, the Cabazon Decision was made by the Supreme Court, stating that if the reservation was in a state in which gambling was legal, the regulations in how they chose to run their gaming could not be regulated by the state (this is why most Indian casinos only require an age of 18 to play, while non-reservation casinos require an age of 21).

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Native American reservation-run casinos yield more in profit than Atlantic City and Las Vegas combined. The reservations have been a successful outcome to a long history of oppression and exile for the Native American people. The impact they have had on today’s gambling world is noted simply by the numbers they are able to rake in year after year in profit. The Native Americans have presented gambling in such a way that there are less regulations than state-run gaming and the casinos are able to offer a wider audience a place to gamble, spend money, and have fun! This has also turned the casino business into a more diversified and competitive market.

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