Indian casino gaming has substantially improved tribal members’ income, and in turn their health status and access to health care, according to a new study by the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The study pulls annual data from 1988-2003 on tribal gaming, as well as health care access from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Resource’s Area Resource File, and the individual health and socioeconomic characteristics from the Centers for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System.
Researchers found that, on average, casinos raised household income by $1,750, or 5.3 percent, which translated to better physical health, mental health and health-related behaviors, reported The Wall Street Journal. Most drastically, a boost in income has decreased the probability of smoking by 9.6 percent, and reduced anxiety (the average number of days American Indians report feeling anxious) by 7.3 percent. The probability of heavy drinking has gone down by 5.2 percent due to casino gaming revenues. Obesity or being overweight, being hypertensive, or having diabetes has been lowered by between 2 percent and 4 percent.
The WSJ reports that an earlier study found Native Americans in the Great Smoky Mountains region of North Carolina experienced a per-household income increase of $6,000 as a result of gaming. Applying the model presented in the study “The income and health effects of tribal casino gaming on American Indians,” those tribal members would have experienced a reduction in the probability of smoking by more than 32 percent and heavy drinking by nearly 18 percent. They would also endure 25 percent fewer days of anxiety.