On Tribal Casinos

This may be a touchy subject for some. But I’m going to talk about tribal casinos. And I’m going to defend the right for tribes to have them, which may be an unpopular opinion among non-Natives, even though they seem to frequent them quite a bit.

I’m not an expert on these matters. I just happen to know that, in the past, when a tribe has made the move to open a casino, white people get up in arms.

I’ve heard various arguments from non-Natives: That no one should gamble because it’s immoral, that tribes shouldn’t be doing things we cannot do (where having a U.S. casino is illegal), and so forth.

Here’s a deal: If you understand tribal nations are nations as such, it really doesn’t matter, unless they are doing some egregiously evil act, what they are doing business wise. They are completely free to establish businesses as they wish. And if those businesses happen to be casinos, fine.

The more interesting thing, to me, is trying to study how tribal nations work. I want to understand how they operate and whether they are able to keep their customs and act in ways they should be able to act without the U.S. interfering.

So, when I look to, say, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, which is the tribal nation I am most closely associated with, I want to know a couple of things. First, who owns the casino? Second, how is the money spent?

Tribal casinos are tribally owned. That is, they are owned by the tribe itself. Most Americans, including me, can hardly conceive of this because it would be like, well, communism, in a way. I have nothing against communism whatsoever. But I come from a mostly capitalist background. So trying to understand tribal ownership is complex for me. But casinos are, in the majority of cases, owned collectively by the tribe or, to put it another way, owned by the tribal nation.

So that answers my first question.

The second question is: What do they do with the money?

Here, again, most Americans could hardly conceive of it. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, for example, seems to use the money for child care programs, programs for elders, and things like that. In short, the tribe collectively owns the business and then uses the money in collective ways.

These things go along with Choctaw traditions of economic systems and methods of distribution.

There’s an awful lot we can learn from tribes on these matters, if we actually took the time to learn. So let’s learn instead of making a fuss about casinos.