Comstock's magazine 1118 - November 2018 - Page 79

SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL SECTION What is the economic impact of tribal gaming operations, both on and off reser- vations? [In 2014], tribal gaming generated $7.8 billion in economic output, and added $5 billion in value to the California economy, which is a large chunk of change. It sup- ported 63,000 jobs. What is the annual philanthropic impact of the tribal gaming industry in California? It’s a large one. It is hard to pinpoint exact- ly because a lot of the tribes don’t want to brag about it. But from what we were able to get in our latest economic impact study, we have almost $60 million contributed to charities statewide by California gaming tribes. We think that number is low be- cause we know of a lot of other contribu- tions that weren’t in this number, but be- cause they didn’t answer it on the survey we don’t quote it. What are some programs that gaming op- erators have in place to create a positive impact on their employees, customers and communities? San Manuel down south has contribut- ed millions of dollars to the Loma Linda [University Medical Center]; they funded an entire cancer wing. Table Mountain Rancheria in [Fresno County] funded a li- brary for the university over there. Locally, they’ll fund schools, books, band uniforms, after-school programs — all of the things that are getting cut [in school] budgets … The tribes, back before they had gaming, were the recipients of charity. And so, a lot of them were on food stamps and welfare and had to depend on clothes, hand-me-downs and those types of things. So, they understand what it is to need and to suffer. And so they want to give back, especially to their local commu- nities, so that where they live is a better place. What is the biggest threat to tribal gov- ernment gaming in California? There are lots of threats, but I think the biggest one now is the expansion of com- mercial, for-profit gaming. How do attacks on tribal sovereign rights impact the gaming operations and how does your association protect these rights? Everything the tribes have comes from their sovereign right for whatever that par- ticular thing that they’re engaged in is. In this case, gaming. It was recognized by the courts that the tribes have a right to en- gage in gaming on their lands, but because tribes are domestic dependent sovereigns, federal law governs what happens on the reservation. So, if Congress were to say, we’re going to limit it, that could be a prob- lem. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act is very specific to how tribes can oper- ate gaming on Indian land. If that were to change or go away it would be catastroph- ic for tribes. And so, [we’re] working every day to watch federal law, also state — whenever there’s something of value that a tribe has, someone tries to take it. [Gam- ing has] proven to be a valuable commod- ity; it’s something that has helped, it’s the only thing that helped bring tribes out of poverty — and it should be noted that not all tribes are out of poverty; there are still many non-gaming tribes that are located in areas that just aren’t viable for gaming. Those tribes are still struggling. There are still tribes that on their reservation don’t have running water, don’t have electricity. And so, we’re hoping that through gam- ing and through the revenue sharing, that changes over the years and that growing success translates to everybody. That’s a concern any time any business goes into an area. Of course, with gam- bling, there’s an opportunity for petty theft, those types of things — so the tribes spend a large amount of money on tribal gaming commissions, regulatory arms, to make sure that crime isn’t happening in their facilities. If it is, people don’t want to be there … so the tribes want to make sure that they have comfortable and safe businesses. The other interesting thing we’ve seen, there was a report done several years ago on the socioeconomics of gaming, and it compared tribal gaming to commercial gaming. And they found in areas where there’s commercial gaming, crime does go up, but where tribal casinos operate, crime actually goes down. How do tribal gaming operations ensure tribal members benefit from the positive economic impact of a casino? The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act man- dates how revenue can be spent. And so the revenue has to go back to [fund tribal gov- ernment operations]. So it has to go for cen- tral government services. So, building roads on the reservation, putting in water, provid- ing for health care, education, a lot of tribes now are providing college scholarships to students ... All of the things that we come to count on from the state government, the tribal government also is responsible for providing to their constituents. Editor’s note: This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. n Willie Clark is a writer, editor, photographer and co-host of the 8 Bit Awesome gaming podcast. On Twitter @_WillieClark or How do you respond to concerns of in- creased crime and increased traffic around new casinos? November 2018 | 79