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The impact of regulated gaming on economies: a look at Native American contributions

Natalia Chiaravalloti from Giochidislots discusses the symbiotic relationship between gaming and tourism, and the positive changes brought about by Native American gaming

Speaking about gambling, we always like – and it’s important that we do – to highlight the impact that our regulated industry has on the economies of countries, both at a national and local level. “The union between gaming and tourism,” explains Natalia Chiaravalloti from Giochidislots, “is perhaps the most obvious and visible expression of this impact, with job creation, a tourist offer that attracts visits, and contributions in terms of taxes and government revenues. This is the model of terrestrial gaming, when well-developed and widespread.”

However, there’s a part of the sector that has adopted it at an even more advanced level, making it grow to generate 48.4 billion annually. I’m talking about the gaming of the Native Americans in the United States, which accounts for almost half of the country’s GGR (gaming gross revenues), but is so little known outside the North American continent (and even within it).

By making gambling the economic foundation of entire nations, lifting them from poverty – in many cases extreme – and continuing to fund services for entire communities of Indian tribes, indigenous gaming is a prime example of the positive power of gaming and the long-term approach that takes into account not just immediate income, but also the impacts of current decisions on the future. In fact, those familiar with indigenous gaming and who have collaborated with indigenous communities know well the concept of seven-generation gaming. This means thinking about the next seven generations, instead of just the present: an approach developed as a result of years of abuse and neglect by the American state“, continues the Giochidislots expert.

There are 547 indigenous communities recognized by the US federal government as sovereign nations, of which 250 operate some form of gaming, with 515 establishments that together generate 44% of the US GGR: an admirable figure for a sector that has only existed since 1988, the year of the enactment of the IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act), which established the rules for “Native American” gaming.

Before 1988, when Native American gaming was authorized, indigenous tribes, usually living in remote areas allocated to them by the US government after being expelled from their original areas further east, could barely fund their reserves and make a living. In fact, many indigenous communities were on the fringes of poverty and society, marginalized both physically in remote areas and civically as an ethnic minority. For many, if not the majority, gaming has transformed their lives, providing a stable and sustainable source of income, which began to fund basic services for the entire community. For instance, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians used gaming revenue to build a hospital, a high school, and a library. According to data from the National Indian Gaming Commission, which is the federal regulator (though it doesn’t regulate the activities of sovereign nations in gaming as much as the integrity of fund movements and cooperation contracts), poverty in gaming-operating indigenous reserves is at 25% compared to 35% in those without gaming, while unemployment rates are 10% versus 14%.

It’s no wonder that indigenous nations want to protect gaming, such an important source of their survival and self-determination. And so, any change, even in the name of technological progress, must be well-analyzed, from the perspective of not only an immediate future but also that of seven generations. While private or publicly-traded organizations have a relatively small group of owners and shareholders to answer to, in Native American gaming, it’s about the entire community and future generations. It’saboutmuch more thanjusttourism“, concludes Chiaravalloti.


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