Have tribal casinos helped tribe members overall?

Native Americans have, I’ve read, higher-than-average rates of alcoholism and unemployment. Have the tribal casinos, and all the money sloshing through them, done anything to actually alleviate the social ills of reservation life?

I want to give this a bump, because I’d like to be educated on the answer myself and I am a little surprised no one has weighed in.

It seems like one of those questions where a lot of defenders of the notion that lack of opportunity keeps some groups down would jump in and describe how opportunity brought by finally being able to afford (fill in the blank here) lifted the oppressed and underserved to full equality.

The silence is deafening, or maybe just the political excitement of the moment makes this a bad time to post the question.

I suspect money has not helped, but then I am one of those who does not think nurture can succeed where nature deals an unfair card. I am, nevertheless, applying for membership to one of my favorite fake tribes, the Mashantucket Pequots. I am hoping for a chance to see if ill-gotten gains corrupts even the Pedant.

I got it that a lot of tribes are still dirt poor, but I think the OP wants to know if the moolah has cured the ills of the tribes who done good, capitalistically-speaking.

Well, the Shakopee-Mdewakanton Dakota seem to be doing pretty well. But they’re kinda the exception in that their reservation and thus, their casino are in the suburbs of a large city. Individuals in the tribe, which numbered only 338 (on res) in the 2000 census, have gotten pretty substantial pay-outs since the first bingo hall.

On the individual level, it’s not something that we hear about in the local media. If there’s anything “problematic” regarding any native americans in the news, it’s more likely to involve the Ojibwe from northern Minnesota who live in the cities, usually connected to the Little Earth housing project.

I am not by any stretch of the imagination an expert on the subject.

The Silver Star and Golden Moon casinos, developed by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, have been a boon to that tribe, I think. They were already doing well with other business ventures, but this has put them over the top.

They don’t have nearly the poverty and accompanying social ills that they used to. Casinos may not have been beneficial everywhere, but they were here.

Not an expert either, but if I remember, the Mdewakanton have individual payouts in addition to tribal money. Pretty sure that they have under 500 members in their tribe, more like around 300 or so. Members receive quite a bit of money every month. Some use it well, some do not. Other MN tribes, such as the Mille Lacs band typically use most of the gambling revenue for infrastructure for the tribe, for example, schools, hospitals, old folks, sanitation, housing, education as opposed to giving individual payouts. Both these tribes mentioned also have ongoing ambition to acquire past tribal lands and put it back into res lands.

Few tribal lands are in a prime location-next to large metropolitan areas, decreasing their possible revenues. These tribes are left out in the cold, and poverty, unemployment, alcoholism is still rampant.

Most tribes prefer hiring Indians for positions. On the other hand, they rely on outsiders to run the casinos.


It seems like an analogy could be made between Indian tribes and oil rich countries in the developing world. There’s a credible argument in developmental economics that factors like being rich in oil or resources actually hinders development because it crowds out other areas of the economy and causes massive corruption and instability.

I think the question being sought is not whether or not some tribes have done well financially. The question is whether the wealth has diminished social ills.

Any data around that? Education? Decreased substance abuse? Diminished depression? I wouldn’t think it’s fair to use modern European standards of “social ills” as the marker unless one is using the same markers for proving the ills in the first place.
But is there any evidence the money has been beneficial?

Busy this morning, can’t dig too deep, but here is some info about the Mille Lacs band.

Main info page

An economic impact statement put out by the tribe. WARNING PDF


They state that poverty has gone from 81% to 15%.

Other than native Americans having a biological issue with alcohol, how do you see this as a nature vs nurture issue?

In my area it hasn’t helped much.

"Fourteen years and hundreds of millions of dollars later, tribal casinos in Tucson have not met federal and state requirements to lift American Indians out of poverty and reduce their dependence on taxpayer money.

Although the federal law and state compacts legalizing Indian casinos say the operations should promote tribal self-sufficiency, develop tribal economies and strengthen tribal governments, progress has been slow. "

I’m not sure of the “biological issue with alcohol,” but it’s common to attribute differential success rates in two populations to poverty and its attendant lack of opportunity. If that is a valid reason, and if it is removed, the difference should vanish. If it does not vanish, weight of evidence shifts toward the difference being genetic (nature).

Fortunately, there seem to have been some drastic and fast genetic changes working in favor of Native Americans within the past couple of decades!

I don’t know what the tribes have been doing to increase their genetically-determined abilities for academic success so rapidly, but I hope it continues to work out for them. Maybe the Area 66 folks have been doing a little genetic-engineering experimentation out in those remote reservation areas? I suppose they wouldn’t tell us if they had.

Chief Pedant is firmly of the opinion that the reason minority groups such as blacks and Native Americans typically underperform white Americans in academic achievement is that they are genetically built that way. By way of compensation, though, he thinks that they’re naturally better than whites at sports.

Oh…oh. :dubious:

Or “uh-oh”?

Thanks, everyone, for your input so far.


I’ve been on a northern Ontario reservation where people were so fucked up and poor, burning their furniture to heat their homes while trees stood all around them and falling down to sleep drunk in the early morning hours on a highway on their way back home twenty miles from the pub.

Here in my area due to the economic opportunities afforded by our coastal fishery, both sport and commercial many natives are quite well off, doing well at school as well. One small reservation of no more than 100 homes boasts two self made millionaires, own of whom adapted to the aquaculture industry by converting a multimillion dollar fishing vessel to accomadate live transport of farm fish to the processing plants.

That’s not to say there are no more social ills. There is a problem with the number of native children requiring foster care, but a lot of that is from small isolated communities up the coast.

Sure, I see drunken Indians , but somewhere in proportion to white drunks.

All the local coke whores are white.

There’s a reservation right next to my shop that has a major highway refueling station on it and the counter is staffed by ladies from the reservation.

They buy me cigarettes and coffee.

I still pay, but since they buy these items, and don’t smoke, they sign in their status number and I don’t have to pay taxes.

I feel like an honourary Native American. :slight_smile:

Before I fall sobbing into my keyboard, I’ll desperately ask for a cite, either from you or Chief Pedant.

More precisely, the Pedant is of the opinion that the principal determinant of intelligence is genetic, and that if any cohort (whether or not it’s otherwise genetically linked) underperforms a different cohort when both are given equal opportunities, the difference is therefore likely to be genetic. Most of what we are is genetic, in my opinion, and that does extend to personalities, diseases, and various types of motor skills. Find two groups that differ, and the odds are the difference is caused by a difference in genes. The Talls and the Shorts are tall and short because of genes, even if they are equally diverse in all other genetic makeup, for instance.

While Kimstu likes to patrol the boards to make sure she properly polices my remarks, she tends not to want to elaborate on the reason I propogate this opinion as it applies to “races.” And she gets by with snitching about my views (instead of just presenting her own) b/c on average my views are pretty much anathema and therefore apparently fair game for a drive-by snark.

But as it turns out, I have a concern which is not all that malignant, after all:

If we move to class-based affirmative action in our effort to create a just society, and it turns out that (gasp! horrors!) mother nature somehow forgot to arbitrarily create all groups exactly genetically equal, we do grave injustice to the notion of equal opportunity for all. Replacing race/ethnic-group-based affirmative action with opportunity-based affirmative action will mean some groups will simply never have the needed boost to take their place in the family of man. Those who feel they are doing some sort of great service to mankind by insisting all populations are genetically equal (at a group average) will have ended up harming the cause of those they intended to help.

Not all who look at genetic influences in group performances are rabid mean-spirited racists. Not all are white supremacists hoping the Injun stays on the reservation.

As to your cite, Kimstu: it’s precisely those sort of anecdotal feel-good stories involving folks arbitrarily designated as native americans (without any sort of corroboration that they are genetically representative of the group) that have absolutely nothing to do with the science of the genomes of populations. But you know that.

To my original point here: if Kimstu (or anyone who holds that nurture and not nature is what differentiates groups) is correct, providing unlimited opportunity to a given group should eliminate any difference, right? And that’s the OP’s question: What hath mammon wrought? If the answer is, “Not much,” then how is the residual difference not Nature?

I was going to ask you to define intelligence and race, but I think I’ll just cut to the chase.

Do you think race determines intelligence? It’s a yes or no question.

Whoa !

Are you going to base that conclusion on such a simple factor as new wealth ?

What about the other environmental factors, such social prejudice, and social isolation, never mind the persistant influence of previous conditions and parental upbringing. Don’t they carry any weight?

Of course. And round and round the debate goes. In general, though, show me a guy with enough money and I’ll show you someone who can buy friends, build his own schools, hire tutors…etc etc. That’s why poverty makes the best baseline excuse for underperformance. Money is opportunity.

When a particular group underperforms, the knee-jerk explanation is that the reason is poverty. Fix the poverty, and the next knee-jerk explanation is “social injustice” or “societal prejudice” or some other excuse. Fix those and the next explanation will be “multi-generational family disruption.” And on and on.

The excuse list is inexhaustable. The resolution to the debate will be genomics, and I think that’s less than a decade or two away. Then we can get on with social policies based on science and not a wish-list for what God should have done. I will be delighted to be proved wrong, and in the interim I have two moral responsibilities:

  1. Make sure I am not part of perpetuating unfair conditions
  2. Fight for inclusive policies that promote representation of all groups