This syndicated opinion, "America's gambling addiction threatens the nation's soul," which appears in newspapers across the country today, brings into stark focus why Indian gaming is not forever. While Indian gaming, i.e. the tribal brick-and-mortar casino as we currently know it, has not outlasted its useful life, there will come a time when Indian gaming, or at least its $26 billion in annual gross revenues, will fall off, if not fade away.
That is because growing forces like Internet gaming (an if not a when), state-run gambling activities (for sake of balanced state budgets), and private casino development (or "government-countenanced" gaming via taxation) will eventually erode the tribal gaming market share. Indeed:
Currently, the Washington, D.C., government hopes to install an Internet gambling hub by the end of this year. California and Massachusetts have bills pending. Other states are watching with interest to see if the federal Justice Department chooses to enforce existing law that seems, at face value, to prohibit online wagering.
Today's economies and politics are fueling the push to universalized gambling. State governments struggling with monster deficits are desperate for any new form of revenue. And the nation seems seized by weirdly irrational politics that equates any tax increase with original sin.
Already, government-countenanced (or directly run) gambling is at a historical high-water mark. All but seven states have lotteries. Casino gambling, both state-countenanced and run by Indian tribes, is spreading like wildfire, especially in the Northeast. Each year, at least half of America's states consider new gambling outlets. "There is a legalized gambling avalanche in progress in America," Skolnik concludes.
In addition, the "social costs of gambling" highlighted in this column, including so-called problem gambling, will eventually cause policy changes in the national gaming space that will negatively impact the Indian gaming market.
Now is the time for tribal governments to diversify their economies; to diversify away from any tribe's sole reliance on its casino to fund essential governmental services and programs. Don't wait.
Gabriel "Gabe" Galanda is a partner at Galanda Broadman PLLC, of Seattle, an American Indian majority-owned law firm. He is an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Covelo, California. He can be reached at 206.691.3631 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or via galandabroadman.com.