When you think of Tribal Gaming in Arizona, you probably think of large casinos, luxurious hotels, and exciting venues for concerts and events. However, what you may not know is how beneficial Tribal Gaming can be for those Tribes that do not own casinos. Many smaller, rural tribes in Arizona are not in a position to build a casino, whether it’s because of their remote location, lack of population, or lack of visitor traffic. Tribes like the Hualapai Tribe, the Kaibab Paiute Tribe, and the Havasupai Tribe, along with others, benefit from the Tribal Gaming compacts even though they do not own or operate casinos.
There are currently 22 sovereign Native American Tribes in Arizona, situated on reservation land that covers over a quarter of the State. Many of these tribes are in rural, agriculture-based communities, as well areas that are isolated from civic centers like Phoenix, Tucson, and Yuma. For example, the Havasupai Tribe lives in the Grand Canyon, hours away from cities of even moderate size. Isolated Tribal governments have historically faced many of the same challenges as more urban tribes, so when Tribal Gaming commenced as a dependable source for economic growth, the concept of Transfer Agreements was designed to share the benefits with rural Tribes. Tribal Leadership at the time required that the ability to participate in this process was written into the Tribal Gaming compact when it was signed into law in 2002. With these Transfer Agreements in place, rural Tribes not only enhance their way of life, but thrive economically from the proceeds that come from Tribal Gaming.
Here’s how it works. In Arizona, each gaming Tribe has a slot machine allotment, or a specific amount of slot machines allowed at each casino. Transfer Agreements allow rural tribes without casinos to lease their slot machine rights to urban tribes in exchange for a percentage of the revenue from those machines. This money provides rural tribes a much needed economic infusion to fund programs like education, healthcare, and infrastructure.
Unlike commercial gaming, Tribal Gaming does not exist to increase shareholder value for wealthy corporations, instead it funds a multitude of services that benefit entire nations. The Hualapai Tribe uses some of the Tribal Gaming revenues they receive from Transfer Agreements for elder care, where funds help elders buy appliances, pay bills, and even provide firewood in the winter for those who do not yet have climate-controlled housing. These funds are also used to improve education services, offer scholarships, build Boys and Girls Clubs, and build day care centers. Tribal Gaming revenues and Transfer Agreements also help the entire community in many other ways, such as providing better access to healthcare, improving emergency services, and helping to create better infrastructure throughout the community.
Today, Tribal Gaming is helping the Tribes overcome centuries of disadvantage, displacement, and limited economic opportunity to build thriving, self-sufficient communities. Transfer Agreements have made it possible for rural tribes to prosper and grow, making available services that may have otherwise been unavailable to their communities.
So, the next time you think of Tribal Gaming, go beyond the fun, excitement, and relaxation and consider the amount of good that comes from Tribal Gaming revenues – not just for those able to operate resort-style properties, but for all the Tribal communities throughout the State that benefit from it.