By Peter Roff • The Hill
In a lot of places it has worked well. In others it has failed to live up to expectations. Some people are still getting rich but the overwhelming poverty the casino revenues were supposed to alleviate remains. Nor have they created a limitless stream of wealth. The economic downturn that began with the crash of 2008 affected the gaming industry just as much as the rest of the economy and you don’t have to be Donald Trump to know it’s a bigger “crap shoot” than most people believe.
Since the act went into effect it has generally been left up to the discretion of the U.S. Department of the Interior whether a specific tribe can go into the casino business and how many sites they may operate if they can. During the Bush administration, standards were reasonably rigorous and considerable heft was given to the sentiments of state and local officials. That’s one of the reasons Arizona voters were given the chance to vote on Prop. 202, which is essentially a master plan governing the spread of tribal casinos throughout the state that is scheduled to be in force until 2027. Continue reading
I don’t know if the ancient language of Arizona’s Tohono O’odham Native American tribe includes a word for “hubris” — defined as excessive pride or self-confidence, with synonyms like “arrogance” and “deceit.”
Regardless of whether they have an equivalent word for hubris, the Tohono O’odham Nation (TON) leaders have proven themselves masters of the concept. And the casino they plan to open December 20th in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale is a monument to hubris, not to mention greed and a shameless distortion of the principle of tribal sovereignty. Now, it appears, federal legislation is the only solution.
All 17 Arizona gaming tribes – including TON – joined in a compact with the state, supported by a public referendum that gave the tribes exclusive rights to operate gambling casinos in Arizona. In return the tribes agreed to specific limits on the number of casinos in Arizona. This was intended to prevent over-saturation thereby providing financial support to the tribes and host communities through gaming revenues, a structure that has proven profitable since enacted in 2002.
The TON casino in Glendale violates the agreed upon limit of seven casinos in the Phoenix area at least until the compact expires in 2027. TON already runs three lucrative casinos on their reservation lands near Tucson. Its Glendale invasion is empire-building pure and simple, not to be confused with a poor tribe trying to pull itself out of poverty. Continue reading
by Peter Roff
Originally designed as a way to compensate Indian tribes for their mistreatment at the hands of the U.S. government, casinos operated by Indian tribes have become something of a shell game. Those who follow the issue can recite anecdote after anecdote involving lawyers in limousines showing up at the headquarters of one tribe or another offering tremendous wealth and opportunity to anyone willing to roll the dice and apply for a gaming license.
With billions of dollars at stake, you might think the Indian gaming industry is more heavily regulated than it actually is. But up until now the process in many states has been heavy on the influence-peddling and light on the responsibility to protect either taxpayers or the tribes. Continue reading