Four American Indian tribes located in North County, California, are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their casinos. Reviewing a decade of successes and struggles for the Pala Band of Mission Indians, Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians, Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians and San Pasqual Band of Diegueno Mission Indians reveals the advantages of successful gaming ventures and a double-edged sword that tribes have handled well.
Gaming has improved the tribal and local economies, created employment and increased care for members. But prosperity, attained at different levels for the tribes, has also triggered internal conflict, confrontation with neighbors, and potentially aggravated other problems like substance abuse in Indian communities, reported the North County Times.
Like many other Indian nations, the four North County-based tribes opened casinos after gaming on Indian land was legalized in 2000.
The Ricon tribe substantially benefited from its January 2001-opened Harrah’s Rincon, its casino-resort collaboration with the Las Vegas-based Harrah’s Entertainment. “I think its one of the greatest economic opportunities that we have ever had available to us,” Rincon Chairman Bo Mazzetti told the North County Times.
The Pala Band experienced similar success since establishing the Pala Casino Spa & Resort in Pala, California. According to the tribe’s chairman Robert Smith, who toured his reservation in his SUV with the North County Times, “The [Pala] casino’s success has meant financial stability for the tribe, the ability to build our own homes with our own money, better education for our children, and our elders are taken care of.”
With its gaming revenues, the Pala tribe built a fire department and a learning center with a preschool, library and computer lab.
In April 2001, San Pasqual opened its mid-scale Valley View Casino & Hotel, which now claims a 12-story, 161-room hotel, several restaurants, an outdoor concert venue and 2,000 slot machines. “The tribe in general has benefited tremendously,” and has been able to provide housing and scholarship assistance to members, fund a fire department, tribal security and after-school programs, said Joe Navarro, president of the San Pasqual Casino Development Group, to the North County Times.
The 200-member Pauma tribe followed the San Pasqual Band, opening the doors to its Pauma Valley-based casino a month later in May 2001.
But not all tribes have the ability to rake in money through gaming. In nearby San Diego County, nestled in “the most remote and inaccessible high mountain wilderness areas of Southern California,” according to the Los Coyotes’ website, building a casino is not in the cards. Yet it receives $1.1 million provided by gaming tribes as part of the agreement struck between tribes and California, stated the North County Times. Part of that money funds the tribe’s police department.
On the flip side, casino riches have also been known to stir inner tribal turmoil. For the San Pasqual Band, family disenrollment was blamed on casino wealth. Approximately “60 people in the 300-member San Pasqual tribe were officially expelled in February after a years-long battle over their true heritage,” reported the North County Times.
The tribal gaming industry also entered choppy waters with the nation’s economy in 2008. Tribes like the Pala Band scaled back, cutting slot machines from 2,400 to 2,000. Other tribes like the Pauma canceled plans to pursue a $300 million casino and hotel with its partner, the Mashantucket Pequots’ Foxwoods Development Co.
Read the full article “Tribal casinos celebrate 10 years at play.”