Q.  Did the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) create Indian gaming?
 A.  No. Gaming is a right of Indian nations. Large-scale Indian gaming, mainly in the form of bingo, predated IGRA by about 10 years. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 recognized Indian people’s right to run gaming when it ruled that states had no authority to regulate gaming on Indian land if such gaming is permitted outside the reservation for any other purpose (California v. Cabazon). Congress established the legal basis for this right when it passed IGRA in 1988.

 Q.  How many tribes have signed compacts with the State of California?
 A.  On September 10, 1999 fifty-eight (58) tribal governments signed tribal-state compacts with Governor Gray Davis. Since September, three additional tribes have signed tribal-state gaming compacts bring the total number of compacts in California to sixty-one (61). The compacts were signed by the Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, and printed in the Federal Register on May 16, 2000. Since September of 1999 three additional tribes have signed tribal-state gaming compacts bringing the total number of compacts in California to sixty-one (61).

 Q.  Will non-gaming tribes benefit from Indian gaming?
 A.  Yes. For the first time in United States history, the compacts negotiated between the California tribal governments and the state of California included a provision for revenue sharing with non-gaming tribes.

 Q.  How do tribes use the revenue generated from Indian gaming?
 A.  Gaming on Indian reservations is operated by tribes to fund governmental programs. IGRA requires that all revenues from tribal gaming operations be used solely for governmental or charitable purposes. Much like state governments determine the use of lottery revenues tribal governments determine how gaming proceeds are to be spent. Indian tribes are using gaming revenue to build houses, schools, roads and sewer and water systems; to fund the health care and education for their people; and to develop a strong, diverse economic base for the future.

 Q.  Are Indians required to pay taxes?
 A.  Yes. All Indian people pay federal income, FICA and social security taxes. Only the small percentage of Indians who live and work on their own federally recognized reservations – not unlike soldiers and their families living on military installations – are exempt from paying state income and property taxes. However, they still pay taxes such as sales and all other special and excise taxes.

According to the National Indian Gaming Commission, Tribal government gaming operations generated 12.7 billion-dollars in revenue in 2001. Tribal government gaming creates jobs, increases economic activity and generates tax revenue both on and off the reservation. Consider the following: in San Diego county alone, tribal gaming has been responsible for the creation of more than 5,000 well-paying jobs, with a payroll of $44 million per year (and the associated payroll taxes and employee income taxes).

 Q.  Who supports Indian gaming?
 A.  A majority of Americans support Indian gaming. Public opinion surveys both nationally and within various states, conclusively demonstrate that the public strongly supports gaming on Indian reservations. In the 1998 elections, 13 state and local referendums that dealt with gaming and Indian gaming won with overwhelming support from people of all walks of life. In 1998 California voters passed Proposition 5 with more than 63% voter approval. The following year Proposition 1A was passed with 64% of the votes.

 Q.  How is Indian Gaming regulated?
 A.  The tribes, as governments, are the first to be vigilant in protecting the integrity of projects they rely upon to feed, clothe, educate and employ their people. Tribal governmental gaming is regulated on three separate and distinct levels, in contrast to the single level of commercial gaming. The first level of regulation comes from the tribes themselves. With the establishment of the Indian gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), tribes are mandated to establish a regulatory body (tribal regulators and commissions) to keep operations in compliance with local ordinances and state compacts. The second level is the State Gaming Department. The state will regulate the areas that have been negotiated with the tribes in the tribal-state compacts. The third level is the National Indian Gaming Commission, which became operable in February 1993 to oversee the regulation of Indian gaming. Other oversight entities include the federal government, the Department of Justice, FBI, and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

 Q.  Does Indian gaming work as a means of economic development for tribes and states?
 A.  Yes. Indian gaming is providing substantial economic benefits in states where the tribes and states have worked together to develop mutual goals. IGRA is working to the benefit of Indians and non-Indians in several states, including California, Washington, Arizona, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Connecticut. Reservations are slowly recovering from decades of failed well-meaning governmental programs. Indians and non-Indians are proudly leaving welfare rolls and getting payroll checks. They are taxpayers instead of tax users. Local and state governments are enjoying increased tax revenues. Only in those few instances where states failed to negotiate fair compacts in “good faith” in violation of IGRA has the process not worked.

 Q.  Are better economic development alternatives to gaming available to tribes?
 A.  Indian gaming is the first – and only – economic development tool that has ever worked on reservations. The majority of reservations are in remote, inconvenient locations on land that nobody else wanted. Before tribal government gaming, there had been little success with public or private sector economic development on reservations. The states have not proposed any specific or credible alternatives to Indian gaming as a meaningful source of tribal revenues and jobs. The National Gambling Impact Study Commission found that “no other economic development other than gaming has been found.” Moreover, tribal governments are using gaming proceeds to diversify and conduct other economic enterprises.

For more information please contact Susan Jensen.