- December 10, 2002
- Time Magazine
- Time and Life Building
- Rockefeller Center
- New York, NY 10020-1393
- Dear Editor:
- On behalf of the 184 Tribes of the National Indian Gaming Association,
I would like to express my disgust with your December 16, 2002 special
Casinos: Wheel of Misfortune.” The story begins with the
word “imagine…” That is the appropriate beginning for a story
twisted to the point of a fairy tale. Your reporters use isolated
circumstances to write what amounts to a gossip column.
- Your story is based on the false and offensive premise that “Washington”
created Indian gaming as a “cheap way to wean tribes from government
handouts.” Indian gaming is not a federal program. Instead,
it is a one tool that Tribes use to generate revenue for their communities.
The Federal programs that you refer to handouts represent an attempt
by the federal government to live up to thousands of treaty obligations
incurred when establishing the land base for this Nation. American
Indians have been victimized by federal policies supporting genocide
and assimilation, which took millions of lives and millions of acres
of Indian land, and caused economic and cultural destruction.
Our grandfathers, Pontiac, Tecumseh, Crazy Horse, Chief Joseph, Geronimo,
and so many others, fought for our rights – especially our right to
self government on our own land. The U.S. Constitution, the
President, Congress, and the United States Supreme Court all recognize
Indian Tribes as governments.
- Indian gaming is self-reliance. Through Indian gaming, Tribes
have created over 300,000 jobs nationwide. Jobs in Indian Country
are precious - whether its 80 jobs on the Pine Ridge reservation,
located in the poorest county in the United States, or 3,000 jobs
at the Oneida Nation of New York, outside Syracuse. Yet your
report completely discounts the value of jobs to our people who have
historically suffered shocking unemployment rates, high levels of
poverty and lack of economic opportunities on Indian homelands.
- More than 200 of the roughly 340 Indian Tribes in the lower 48 states
use Indian gaming to generate tribal government revenue. That
is about 60% of Indian Tribes. So yes, Indian gaming is broadly
benefiting Indian Country. Naturally, Indian Tribes that are
closer to large markets are generating revenue. Is that a surprise
in a market economy? If you are advocating “to each according
to his need and from each according to his ability,” Russia tried
that and failed. On the same note, we can hardly believe that
an organization led by Ted Turner can, without blushing, publish stories
suggesting that others should not pursue economic ventures in America.
- Indian Tribes use gaming first and foremost for tribal government
programs, community infrastructure, charity, and aid to local governments.
Where Indian Tribes have suffered the highest teen suicide rates in
the country, Indian gaming has built schools, funded colleges scholarships,
and given our children hope for a brighter future. The Mille
Lacs Band of Ojibwe, for example, built two schools and their high
school graduates are now fluent in both Ojibwe and English.
Where our people suffer epidemic problems of diabetes, heart, and
liver disease, Indian gaming is building health clinics, dialysis
centers, and fitness centers.
- Indian gaming not only works for Indian Country, it works for America.
Contrary to your story, Tribes are not running roughshod over our
neighboring communities. Non-Indians hold 75% of the 300,000
jobs Indian gaming has created nationwide. Tribes have brought economic
development to historically rural and undeveloped areas. It’s
a fact that many Indian casinos are the largest employers in their
areas. In addition, Tribes have numerous service agreements
with state and local governments to share revenues, contribute emergency
service equipment, build roads and other infrastructure, and provide
other government services to non-Indian community members. For
example, the Mohegan Tribe’s restaurants serve buffalo meat purchased
from Plains Indian Tribes while the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla
Indians purchased fire trucks for Palm Springs. The Forest County
Potawatomi Tribe funds Milwaukee Indian School and aids the Red Cliff
and Mole Lake Bands of Chippewa. Additionally, Tribes donate
$68 million annually to charitable organizations.
- American Indians are American taxpayers. Indian gaming revenue
is 100% taxed – the vast majority goes directly for tribal government
purposes serving as tribal tax revenue, and any remainder that is
paid to tribal members is subject to Federal income taxation.
In fact, through employee income, payroll, vendor taxes, and revenue
sharing agreements, Indian gaming generates over $4 billion in annual
revenue for the Federal Government, over $1 billion for the states,
and $50 million for local governments. American Indians pay
another $4 billion in personal Federal income taxes.
- That the NIGC has yet to discover any major cases of corruption
is a testament to the upstanding job done by our regulatory personnel.
Your article continues to perpetuate a myth that Indian gaming is
not regulated. This is simply not true. President Bush
has just appointed a former U.S. Attorney, former FBI agent, and former
state deputy attorney general to staff the National Indian Gaming
Commission. In addition to the $164 million that Indian Tribes
dedicate to tribal government regulation and the $40 plus million
that tribal governments pay to states for state regulation, the NIGC
has an $8 million budget. In total, that’s over $212 million
that Indian Tribes spend annually on regulation. This figure
includes the employment of over 2,800 gaming commissioners and regulatory
staff. In addition, Tribes work with the FBI within the Department
of Justice, FinCEN and the IRS within Treasury, and the BIA within
the Interior Department. Your suggestion that this regulatory
system is less than comprehensive is just plain wrong – as a number
of DOJ investigations have found.
- Furthermore, your discussion of management contracts is faulty at
best. Whether a Tribe chooses to employ a management company
or developer is an exercise of a Tribe’s individual sovereignty.
Each Tribe has the right to choose what is most beneficial for its
own membership and community. Whether or not a Tribe chooses
a management firm is a tribal decision and the fact remains that Tribes
are legal entities with the right to determine their own future as
they see fit within the context of the law. Many Tribes have
never had a management agreement and have operated their gaming enterprises
pursuant to their own gaming ordinances, long before the Indian Gaming
Regulatory Act was passed.
- In conclusion, as American Indians, we find it highly offensive
that TIME published an article belittling tribal self-government and
the very positive attempts of tribal governments to dispossession
for hundreds of years. You do not belittle Israeli or Palestinian
efforts toward self-determination, but it can not fathom that within
the United States, Indian Tribes continue to be vital, self-governing
nations working to build a life for our people.
- Ernie Stevens, Jr.
- National Indian Gaming Association