10 Things You Need to Know about Indian Reservation Gambling

iStock
iStock

I'm planning a trip back East and will be hitting my first Indian Reservation casino, which got me thinking: I know nothing about their history at all! So, after much research, here's the highlights of what I unearthed. Please share any Indian gambling experience you have in the comments below!

The Beginnings

1. The phenomenon of Indian reservation gambling began in the '70s when the Seminole tribe in Florida opened a high-stakes bingo operation, which is against Florida law. The authorities tried to shut the instant-tourist-attraction down and a slew of lawsuits followed. In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled that the State did not have the right to regulate Indian reservation activities nor could they tax reservation occupants.

2. In 1987, in the Cabazon Decision, the Supreme Court ruled that as long as a form of gambling is legal in the state where the reservation is located, the state can't regulate activities on the reservation. This decision led to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which requires reservations confer with the state before offering any games that would be played against the casino such as slots or blackjack tables. If the state refuses to negotiate—as several have—then the Secretary of the Interior works out his own deal, which is always in the favor of the Indian tribe.

Big Money

3. Indian reservation gambling generates more income than Atlantic City and Las Vegas combined. In 2009, this totaled $26.5 billion in revenue from 425 facilities, run by 233 tribes in 28 states. Tribes receive $4 of every $10 that Americans wager at casinos.

4. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe's Foxwoods Resort and Casinos in Connecticut is one of the world's largest casinos. The resort covers 4.7 million square feet, has over 380 gaming tables, over 6,200 slot machines—the most in the world—and houses the world's largest bingo hall. The resort pays 25% of it slot revenue to the state of Connecticut as part of their deal to allow slot machines.

5. The second largest Casino in the United States, Mohegan Sun, which is operated by the Mohegan Tribe, is located just a few miles from Foxwoods Resort. Mohegan Sun sports the world's largest planetarium dome. In 2005, Mohegan Sun purchased Pocono Downs Racetrack in Pennsylvania and began operating the first slot machine casino in Pennsylvania in 2006.

6. Tribal Casinos are not always run by the tribe itself, but often by an outside management company. Harrah's manages Cherokee Casino in North Carolina, the Prairie Band Casino in Kansas and the Ak-Chin Casino in Arizona. Mohegan Sun is managed by a South African company in conjunction with the tribe. Donald Trump even tried his hand at running a reservation casino when he owned and managed the Trump 29 casino in California. It was the first Californian reservation casino to open under a non-Indian name; however Trumps ownership ended in 2006 and it's now called Spotlight 29.

So where does the money go?

7. Revenues from gaming are required to be used for tribal governmental and charitable ventures only. The revenues are exempt from federal, state, and local taxes, however there are exceptions. In the cases where the revenues are divided evenly and then distributed directly to tribal members, the federal government gets a nice cut. State taxes are often part of the agreements for large scale casinos.

8. There are 562 recognized tribes in the United States, only about 200 operate full scale casinos. There are approximately 150 additional tribes seeking recognition. Many complain that these tribes have no real membership and are only seeking to cash in on the casino business. Supporters of Native American rights point to centuries old treaties put in place to protect these unrecognized tribes. The Pequot tribe, which operates Foxwoods, received recognition in the early 1980s, after the last surviving member living on the reservation died and her grandchildren came together to recreate the tribe.

Big Controversy

9. In the mid-nineties, The Coeur D'Alene Tribe in Idaho began the National Indian Lottery on-line. This was a revolutionary idea at the time. However, it was met with much opposition and many lawsuits. The controversy stemmed from defining where the gambling took place—in the state where the gambler was playing or on the reservation where the site was based. The site was shut down in 1998, but as of November 2009 the Coeur D'Alene tribe was once again drumming up business for their upcoming on-line lottery. Stay tuned!

10. The Navajo's Fire Rock Casino has been a hotbed of an unworldly controversy. After reports of soil from an archeological site being used as landfill for the casino—which goes against Navajo beliefs concerning the dead—and debate over possible uranium in the soil, some started to suspect skinwalker curses! (Skinwalkers are people who practice a form of witchcraft in Native American legends.) The tribal leadership was determined to move forward with the project and in November, 2008, the casino opened to much fanfare. However, early morning reports surfaced of staff members seeing skinwalkers in the casino on opening day. Navajo Gaming Enterprise CEO Robert Winter assured visitors that the tribe had bestowed many protective blessings upon the casino resort and it's a great place to visit. :-)

Anyone ever been there? See any skinwalkers? Anyone ever been to any of these Indian casinos? Tell us about your experience.

10,000 People Gathered at Stonehenge to Welcome the Summer Solstice

Finnbarr Webster, Getty Images
Finnbarr Webster, Getty Images

There are plenty of reasons to welcome the start of summer. Today, people visiting Stonehenge took that celebration to a whole new level.

The BBC reported that an estimated 10,000 people made the pilgrimage to the 5000-year-old site to partake in summer solstice festivities. "Stonehenge was built to align with the Sun, and to Neolithic people, the skies were arguably as important as the surrounding landscape," Susan Greaney, a senior historian at English Heritage, said in a statement. "At solstice we remember the changing daylight hours, but the changing seasons, the cycles of the Moon, and movements of the Sun are likely to have underpinned many practical spiritual aspects of Neolithic life."

These spiritual aspects are just one of the many fascinating facts about the summer solstice; the day is an extremely old calendar event recognized by ancient cultures across the globe. They include the Druids and other pagans, whose tradition of observing the solstice at Stonehenge has long been upheld by modern revelers.

Scientifically speaking, Stonehenge is an optimal viewing place for the solstice due to its structure. According to TIME, the site’s architects appeared to have kept both the summer and winter solstices in mind during its construction, as the positions of the stones are specifically tuned to complement the sky on both occasions.

The solstices were sacred to the pagans, whose modern-day followers continue to honor their rituals. Pagans in particular refer to the day as Litha, and mark it with activities such as meditation, fire rites, and outdoor yoga.

“What you’re celebrating on a mystical level is that you’re looking at light at its strongest," Frank Somers, a member of the Amesbury and Stonehenge Druids, said in 2014. "It represents things like the triumph of the king, the power of light over darkness, and just life—life at its fullest."

Those who were unable to make the journey can head over to the Stonehenge Skyscape project's website, where English Heritage’s interactive live feed fully captured the experience.

Tourists Are Picking Apart Britain's Oldest Tree

Paul Hermans, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The Fortingall Yew in the Fortingall churchyard in Perthshire, Scotland has seen a lot. Since it started growing at least 2000 years ago, it's been present for the Roman settlement of Scotland, the shift from paganism to Christianity, and the country's induction into the United Kingdom. But after standing for millennia, the ancient tree is facing its greatest threat yet. Tourists are removing twigs and branches from the tree to take home as souvenirs, and the tree is under so much stress that it's spontaneously changing sexes, Atlas Obscura reports.

Because of how the tree grows, it's hard to date the Fortingall Yew precisely. It comprises several separate trunks that have hollowed out over the years, making it easier for the tree to support itself in its old age. Based on historical measurements and 19th-century ring counts, the yew has been around for at least two millennia, but it could date back as far as 5000 years. That makes it the oldest tree in Britain and one of the oldest living things in Europe.

That impressive title means the tree gets a lot of visitors, not all of whom are concerned with extending its lifespan even longer. A stone and iron wall built in the Victorian era encloses the tree, but that hasn't stopped people from climbing over it to break off pieces or leave behind keepsakes like beads and ribbons.

As the abuse adds up, the tree has responded in concerning ways. It sprouted red berries this spring, a sign that the tree is transitioning to a different sex for the first time in its life. Yew trees are either male or female, and sex changes among the species are incredibly rare and misunderstood. Some botanists believe it's a reaction to stress. The change may be a survival mechanism intended to increase the specimen's chances of reproducing.

Scientists aren't sure why this particular yew, which was formerly male, sprouted berries on its upper branches, an exclusively female characteristic, but they've collected the berries to study them. The seeds from the berries will be preserved as part of a project to protect the genetic diversity of yew trees across the globe.

In the mean time, caretakers of the Fortingall Yew are imploring visitors to be respectful of the tree and keep their hands to themselves.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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