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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Casino gambling exploits Native Americans

From the very beginning of their disingenuous campaign to foist casino gambling on the communities of southern Maine, supporters have been long on pie-in-the-sky promises but alarmingly short when it comes to explaining the nitty-gritty of how this pie would be baked.

Last week, Ernest Stevens Jr. of the National Indian Gaming Association rhapsodized the virtues of casinos to an audience in Orono, trumpeting, of course, the tedious reprise about how casinos create hundreds of jobs and give local economic development a major shot in the arm.

His sanguine claims of sure-fire prosperity, presented before by others who have been equally myopic, are half-baked at best.

But this time, Stevens makes a claim we have not yet heard. He says that historically, Indian tribes with casinos are much better off than their nongaming counterparts.

Stevens suggests the Penobscot Nation and Passamaquoddy Tribe stand to make substantial economic gains that would elevate their standards of living. He sees the $650 million casino proposal targeted for southern Maine as a panacea for the long-term well-being of both tribes.

At first blush, it sounds reasonable to assume that sponsoring tribes would, indeed, profit substantially from such an enterprise.

Whether Biddeford or Sanford may someday host a casino, we still don't know anything about the investors with the deep pockets, where casino employees would live or the potentially costly impact on infrastructure. But just as Tom Tureen, the lawyer representing the Indians, has time and again glossed over the important particulars of the casino way of life, Stevens has shown us in no small way that the devil remains in the details.

And so it's difficult not to wonder if what Tureen and Stevens aren't telling us is contained in the recent article published in Time magazine titled "Wheels of Misfortune," a piece about how casino gambling does virtually nothing to help smaller tribes escape poverty and how it lines the pockets of their wealthy white investors.

Congress enacted the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988 with the intent to help raise Indian tribes from poverty and provide a way for them to become more self-sufficient and less dependent on federal assistance.

Instead, according to Time, the act has created a broken system filled by chaos and inequities in which most Indians remain in poverty while a disproportionately few Native Americans prosper beyond anyone's wildest dreams.

Time magazine has reported how the federal gaming act is exploited by behind-the-scenes investors who use the Indians as a front to establish the casinos and then they rake in most of the profits for themselves.

No doubt, there is big money in Indian casinos. Last year, 290 Indian casinos in 28 states grossed $12.7 billion. Of that amount, the casinos made more than $5 billion in profit.

Some Indian tribes are, indeed, getting rich. Members of the Table Mountain Rancheria tribe in California reportedly picked up checks recently of $200,000 each as their shares of the casino profits.

But the Time report says, "... even those amounts pale beside the fortunes made by the behind-the-scenes investors who bankroll the gaming palaces. They walk away with up to hundreds of millions of dollars. Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of Indians get nothing."

White investors, according to the article, have re-established long-dispersed tribes to use as gaming fronts. They have paid to relocate tribes to land that is better suited for casino building and marketing. They serve as the prime movers and planners of the casinos, investing to find suitable tribes, paying tribe members a signing bonus, paying tribal expenses relative to the project and paying salaries of tribe officials "before a spade of dirt is turned."

If a tribe is not recognized by the federal government and, therefore, not eligible to build a casino, investors have been known to go so far as hiring genealogists to cobble together a family tree and then hire lawyers and lobbyists to pressure Washington officials into changing the tribe's status.

The amount of profit they can make by building a casino compels them to stop at nothing to attain their goals. Nevermind the serious social impacts of gambling on families and the expenses incurred by taxpayers to make such an enterprise fit into their communities.

There is no shortage of dire problems associated with casino gambling. Don't add to it by supporting a business that repeats an ignominious chapter of history in this country a chapter in which white people shamelessly exploited Native Americans for their own gain.

Rob's reply
Well, we know Foster's people can read, since they repeated TIME's charges almost verbatim. Too bad they didn't add anything original to the debate.

Curiously, Foster's says it hasn't heard that gaming helps the tribes that pursue it. That may be because TIME obscured this obvious point.

Foster's finds the idea of creating jobs and giving the community an economic boost "tedious." If the newspaper is bored with making money, it's free to give its profits away.

In fact, since Foster's thinks something is amiss because gaming tribes are making money and non-gaming tribes aren't, maybe it should show the way. It can help failing newspapers by subsidizing them. If tribes can do it, so can Foster's. The idea is exactly the same.

When Foster's says investors "rake in most of the profits for themselves," it's flatly wrong. The highest share of profits going to investors, according to the deeply flawed TIME report, is 41%. That's not "most" of anything.

Alas, Foster's fails to document its only interesting claim: that Stevens was wrong about gaming tribes being better off. Suppose investors are creating gaming fronts and reaping profits while causing "serious social impacts." Even if that were true, which it isn't, it doesn't negate Stevens's point. Gaming tribes still fare better than if they hadn't pursued gaming.

Nothing in this pitiful rehash justifies the headline that "Casino gambling exploits Native Americans." The claim is illogical on the face of it. How can Indians exploit themselves by pursuing gaming? Is someone forcing them into the gaming business against their will? Who?

Foster's must think gaming tribes are literally losing money. And Indians are ignorant or incompetent for letting it happen. That's the main stereotype in this insulting screed.

Related links
Responses to TIME's attack on Indian gaming
The facts about Indian gaming

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