There are 493 Indian gaming operations in the United States. These are owned by 244 of the
nation's 565 federally-recognized tribes and operate in 28 of the 50 states. The annual revenue from
all Indian gaming is nearing $30 billion and represents 43% of all casino gaming
revenue in the U.S.
(Source: National Indian Gaming Commission)
1979 - Birth of Indian Gaming
The Seminole Tribe opened a high-stakes bingo hall on their reservation at
Hollywood, Florida on December 14, 1979 and the state tried immediately to shut
it down. This was followed by a series of court battles leading to a final
decision by the United States Supreme Court in 1981. The court ruled in favor of the Seminoles affirming
their right to operate their bingo hall. (Seminole Tribe of Florida v.
1987 - U.S. Supreme Court Recognizes Indian Gaming The United States Supreme Court ruled that federally-recognized tribes could
operate casinos outside state jurisdiction because the tribes were considered
sovereign entities by the United States and the gaming operation must not be
directly prohibited in that state. (California v.
Cabazon Band of Mission Indians)
1988 - Indian Gaming Regulatory Act
Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) to establish the rules
for the operation and regulation of Indian gaming.
The Act provides that a federally-recognized tribe may conduct gaming
activities within the limitations of a compact negotiated between the tribe and
the state and approved by the U.S. Department of Interior.
There is more information about the IGRA in the next section.
Indian Gaming Regulation
Indian gaming is authorized by the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).
Under this law Indian tribes in any state can conduct gambling on Indian land as
long as the type of gambling has been authorized for non-Indians.
The IGRA defines "Indian land" as either:
Land that is part of a federally recognized Indian reservation, or
Off-reservation land that is held in trust for a tribe by the federal government.
The IGRA divides gaming into three classes:
Class I Gaming
Defined as "traditional tribal gaming and social gaming" with minimal
prizes. This class is controlled exclusively by tribal governments.
Class II Gaming
Defined as gambling played exclusively against other players and not the house.
Examples are bingo, poker, keno, pull-tabs, punchboards, and other “non-banked” card games.
It is governed by a tribal ordinance that must meet federal guidelines and
be approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission.
Class III Gaming
Defined as gambling played against the house, sometimes referred to as
Includes slot machines, blackjack, craps, roulette, and "all forms of gaming
that are not class I gaming or class II gaming." Tribes negotiate
a gaming compact with the government of the state in which it is located.
The compacts insure the gambling complies with state laws.
National Indian Gaming Commission The NIGC was established by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 as a
federal agency to investigate, audit, review, and approve Indian gaming
Bureau of Indian Affairs The Bureau of Indian Affairs handles the administration and management
of 55.7 million acres of land held in trust by the United States for
American Indians, Indian tribes, and Alaska Natives. There are 562 federal
recognized tribal governments in the United States. http://www.doi.gov/bia/
Committee of Indian Affairs This Senate committee has jurisdiction to study the unique problems of
American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native peoples including
economic development, land management, trust responsibilities, education,
health care, and claims against the United States. http://indian.senate.gov
National Indian Gaming Association The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) is a non-profit Indian
gaming association of tribal members and industry members. Its mission is to
protect the welfare of tribes seeking self-sufficiency through Indian
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