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Tribal Casinos: some seek changes to increase earnings, other so rich who donate

Published on October 25, 2014, 4:32 pm

by Jeff Grant Twitter account Jeff Grant LinkedIn account

While it's true that Las Vegas and Atlantic City are two of America's hottest casino epicenters, people across the United States can and do enjoy gambling in local Native American casinos. Approximately half of all Native American groups in the U.S. earn a significant amount of revenue from tribal casinos and gaming. As corporate casinos expand and Internet gambling takes a legal hold in more and more states, some tribes that once earned sufficient revenue on gaming alone are looking to diversify their business ventures.

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe: A Grand Hotel Plan

In the face of increased gambling competition, Minnesota's Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe has a new business goal: to open a profitable hotel in every major U.S. city. Recently the tribe purchased two large hotels in St. Paul: the Doubletree Hilton and the Crowne Plaza. According to the tribe's commissioner of corporate affairs, Joe Nayquonabe, plans are in the works to open other hotels in major U.S. cities like New York and Washington, D.C.

Looking toward the future, the tribe may develop their own unique hotel line, or they may continue to purchase existing hotels and take over management; that decision has yet to be made. In any case, Nayquonabe says he is thankful that tribal gambling profits have helped build a solid infrastructure for his tribal community, but it is now time to explore new business options.

Nebraska's Winnebago Tribe: Fingers in Many Different Pies

Iron Horse & Native Star Casino
Iron Horse & Native Star Casino

The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska knows all about diversification. The tribe owns more than 20 different businesses, from advertising to retail to construction, in 10 states. The economic development corporation, called Ho-Chunk Inc., began in 1994 as a one-person operation. In 2009 it was featured in a PBS special called "Native American Entrepreneurs".

Today, it employs over 1,400 people and has raised millions of dollars for the Winnebago community. The revenue the tribe earns from this corporation is in addition to its two casinos in northern Nebraska, the Native Star Casino and Iron Horse Bar and Casino.

Potawatomi Business Development Corporation in Wisconsin Explores Revenue Options

The Potawatomi Business Development Corporation in Wisconsin has partnered with numerous businesses in the Milwaukee area for the financial betterment of the Potawatomi tribe. According to the organization's website, the corporation thrives on a "steady diet" of potential acquisitions and other business ventures. The revenue generated for the tribe by this corporation is in addition to the revenue brought in by the Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee, a deluxe casino with almost 3,000 slot machines and table games like blackjack and roulette.

Washington Tribes Donate Money to Local Government

Native American societies are often among the poorest communities in the United States. While some tribes are looking to diversification as a way to maintain revenue, however, other tribes are faring well enough on their casino income alone. Two Washington tribes, the Stillaguamish and the Tulalip, are making so much money that they recently donated some of their surplus cash to their local communities.

Stillaguamish of Washington Donates Cash to Local Causes

In 2007, the Stillaguamish donated $10,000 of their Casino of the Winds revenue to the Boys and Girls Club of Arlington. More recently, the tribe donated nearly $87,000 to Snohomish County. Mr. Shawn Yanity, Chairman of the Stillaguamish tribe, said when a Snohomish county prosecutor came to the tribal council asking for a donation that would keep one prosecuting attorney employed for a year, the decision was an easy one. He said the tribe had plenty of resources and was happy to contribute to the stability of the community's infrastructure.

About Angel of the Winds

Angel of the Winds Casino
Angel of the Winds Casino

Located in Arlington, Wa., the Stillaguamish Angel of the Winds casino seems like a typical Native American casino. The facility has no attached hotel, but does partner with the local Medallion Hotel, providing free back-and-forth shuttle service to patrons. Visitors with RVs may stay for $15 per night in the casino's RV park. Guests at Angel of the Winds enjoy over 1,000 slot machines and 10 types of table games.

The casino offers a players' club called the Totem Club; members earn casino incentives and discounts at various businesses in the Arlington area. Guests can consume all they care to eat at the Watershed Buffet, snack at Katie's Kitchen, or celebrate happy hour at The Bear's Den. They can also partake of Angel of the Winds karaoke events twice per week.

Tulalip of Washington Donates $1.3 Million to Local Washington Government

On several different occasions over the past three years, the Tulalip tribe has donated over $1 million to the Marysville School District in Washington. Recently the school district has faced a tough economic situation; the tribe wanted to help. Donated monies have gone to support Marysville's math and science curriculum, professional development for teachers, and the improvement of assessment tools.

These donations have provided support for the community and created a sense of pride among tribe members, who see their financial acts of good will as a way to pay back local government for their past support.

Orcas swimming near the Tulalip Casino resort
Orcas swimming near the Tulalip Casino resort

About Tulalip Casino

Like Angel of the Winds, the Tulalip Casino looks like a lot of other Native American casinos. Featuring 200,000 square feet of gambling space, patrons can bet anywhere from a penny to $20 on top-notch slot machines from IGT, Bally, and MultiMedia. They also enjoy over 50 game tables including Spanish 21, blackjack, and poker. The tribe provides an all-you-can-eat buffet, a 24-hour cafe, and a snack bar. It also boasts of its Orca ballroom, a hall in which patrons enjoy bingo tournaments and shows.

Native American Casinos: A Changing Landscape

As casinos and Internet gambling spread like wildfire through the U.S., many Native American tribes who once earned 100 percent of their profits through local neighborhood casinos are beginning to diversify their business options. Some Washington tribes, however, find their casino revenue is sufficient enough not only to support themselves, but to donate surplus money to the community.


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