The Current State of Tribal Gaming in the US

For the fiscal year 2015, the 244 tribes that run native casinos generated $30 billion in revenues, making it the industry’s most lucrative year to date. They now account for 43% of the USA’s total casino revenues, and by comparison, the Las Vegas Strip and Atlantic City collected a combined $9 billion over the same period.
Native Indian tribes got their first inroad into the casino business after the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1998 established the regulatory framework necessary for tribal gaming. Since then, the industry has expanded to include twenty-eight states offering tribal casino gaming, and in recent times the wave of expansion has continued unabated.
While the IGRA states that Native tribes are permitted to offer Class II gaming (bingo type games of chance), Class III gaming (slots, roulette, blackjack, etc), on the other hand, requires the approval of individual states and their voters. Furthermore, IGRA dictates that casino activities cannot be offered on land acquired post-1998, although exceptions to the rule apply to tribes who held no sovereign land before this date, or if their proposed property lies within the Native American groups’s former reservation.
This has led to an increasing number of legal disputes as tribes seek to build new casinos on recently purchased land, while individual states question whether their actions fall within the established rules. In the past year alone, for instance, such legal battles have raged in various states across the country, including in California, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Rhode Island.
Needles to say, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), whose responsibility it is to help resolve such disputes, had a particularly busy time in 2016. Moreover, those states looking to build extra casino venues of their own are often forced to void additional gaming license offered to operators when a tribe wins a case, in order to allay any gambling saturation concerns the state may have.

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