How do Native American Casinos Operate?

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We all know that many Native American tribes have casinos based in their jurisdictions, but not all of us understand how these casinos operate.

You might have noticed that, often, big casinos are located on Native American land and inside their reservations.  The question that arises is what rules are applicable when you gamble at a Native American casino?  Do you pay tax on your winnings?  Are payouts different?

Here are ten things that you should know about Native American casinos:

1. Native American Casinos are Often Bigger than Mainstream Casinos

If you’ve ever been to Las Vegas, the first thing that you might have noticed was the sheer size of the casinos and the resorts, from hotels to the actual gambling areas.  However, this all dwarfs in comparison to WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma, which is the largest casino in the world, covering an impressive area of 600,000 square feet under the roof.

2. The Tribe Might Not Run the Casino

Native American land is protected, but this does not mean that the tribespeople run or manage the casinos on their territory.  They usually leave the administration to more experienced specialists.  For example, Harrah’s operates the Ak-Chin, the Prairie Band, and the Cherokee casinos on behalf of the tribes on whose land the resorts are based.

3. Native American Casinos Earn More Revenue Than Las Vegas

In 2017, Native American casinos had gaming revenue of US$32,4 billion.  In comparison, the Las Vegas Strip “only” coined in US17,8 billion over the same period, of which US$6 billion was income from gaming.  This is because Las Vegas is mainly a holiday destination, while Native American casinos have access to regular gamblers, who make repeated visits during a year.

4. Casino Games Are Not Regulated at Native American Casinos

Native American casinos aren’t regulated and are free to set up their own payment schedules, without having to display payout percentages.  Because each casino can follow its own set of rules, individual experiences are purely anecdotal.  However, there is an indication that slot games are tighter, while table games are more generous at Indian casinos.

5. Reservation Casinos Have a Unique Vibe

Like regular casinos, Native American casinos also offer freebies, like meals, drinks and accommodation.  However, the clientele varies between the two.  Las Vegas usually strives to attract holidaymakers who are ready to spend a bit more.  On the other hand, tribal casinos don’t go out of their way to get you there, since you are probably a regular who stays within a 20-minute radius of the resort.

6. Tribes Use Profits for Infrastructure and Social Development

Individual tribespeople don’t usually get a profit share.  Instead, the proceeds of casino operations are often reinvested back into the community in the form of improved roads, better schooling, and enhanced local healthcare facilities.  The rest goes back into developing the casino to attract new customers.

7. Security Personnel Have More Power

If you are planning to cheat at a Native American casino, think again.   When on tribal land, you will have tribal police patrol the casinos, and they have the full force of the law behind them.  Unlike Las Vegas security that can only watch and report, tribal agents can strip-search you, arrest you, and are fully armed at all times.

8. Tribes Don’t Pay Tax on Casino Proceeds

The federal government is not allowed to tax tribal activities, resulting in tribal casinos not paying taxes to central authorities.  However, they might pay a portion of their profits to state and provincial administrations.  Moreover, all winnings are taxable, and all the employees who work at a tribal casino pay income tax.

9. Tribal Casinos Boost Employment Rates

Tribal casinos positively impact the local economy, bringing young people back to the reservations by creating job opportunities.  These casinos often increase the employment rate by close to a third in the reservations where they get built, while reducing the number of working.

10. Downside of Native American Casinos

There are some disadvantages to a reservation casino.  Recent research has shown an increase in suicide rates, as well as bankruptcy and theft, within a 50-mile radius of a tribal casino.

While Native American casinos are unique entities in their own right, they pretty much operate like any other casino.  However, it is always advisable to familiarise yourself with their few unique characteristics, to make your next stop at a tribal casino as hassle-free as possible.

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Bojan Lipovic - Digital Project Manager

Besides polishing his SEO skills, Bojan has a penchant for creative writing. With over half a decade of experience in the online gambling industry under his belt, his written take on the latest news from the Canadian and global gambling industries is an indispensable source of information for the CASINOenquirer team. Bojan’s primary goal is to ensure that players get a superior experience through the top-notch content that he shares.

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