|Thomas Lozano at the planned|
Enterprise Rancheria Casino site
(NYT photo by Max Whittaker)
How unimaginable? Onishia reports that "with 80 percent of its revenues coming directly from gambling, Thunder Valley is so profitable that it has transformed the lives of its owners, the 400-member United Auburn tribe, most of whom received welfare benefits until the casino opened in 2003. The tribal council has provided housing for members, built group homes for troubled children and connected residential areas to water and sewer systems. All members receive free health care and dental benefits. Children making the honor roll receive hundreds of dollars in incentives. The tribe’s 200 adult members each get a share of the casino’s revenues, which local news media have reported as $30,000 per month, and which industry experts have estimate is more. Douglas G. Elmets, a spokesman for the tribe and a former White House spokesman during the Reagan administration, said only that members did not need to work for financial reasons, but that many did in tribal affairs."
Since Indian gambling was legalized in the United States in 1988, only five tribes have gotten final clearance to build casinos off their reservations. The issue in California now has raised larger issues in Indian communities across the nation about the goals of gambling. A decade ago, tribes were united in their efforts to further Indian gambling, which was supposed to give them the means to become self-sufficient, said Steven Light, co-director of the University of North Dakota’s Institute for the Study of Tribal Gaming Law and Policy. But he said that talk of “fairness and justice” has given way in an increasingly competitive market. (Read more)