Academic journal article Social Work

Implications of American Indian Gambling for Social Work Research and Practice

Academic journal article Social Work

Implications of American Indian Gambling for Social Work Research and Practice

Article excerpt

There is a pressing need for social work researchers and practitioners to become aware of the phenomenon of gambling in the United States, especially within Indian tribes. The number of U.S. states with some form of gambling increased from two to 48 between 1972 and 1999 (Smith &Wynne, 2000). In the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) 1999 report to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission (NGISC), 86 percent of adult participants in the United States reported some lifetime participation in traditional forms of gambling, and 68 percent reported gambling at least once in the past year (Gerstein et al., 1999). In another 1999-2000 U.S. gambling survey of past-year participation, 82 percent of adult participants reported gambling in the past year, with the largest extent of gambling involvement being casino gambling (Welte, Barnes, Wieczorek, Tidwell, & Parker, 2002). Gaming has become widespread in Indian communities, with 225 tribes in 28 states operating some form of gambling (National Indian Gaming Association [NIGA], 2006). Existing research reveals a complex pattern of risks and gains from gambling within American Indian communities. The presence of casinos on reservations has resulted in positive social and economic changes, including job creation and decreasing rates of poverty. However, the growth of gambling is an important public health and social work issue as it may increase the risk for gambling pathology. Indeed, as legal gambling has become more available and participation has increased across the United States, so has problem and pathological,, gambling (Gerstein et al., 1999; Potenza, Kosten, & Rounsaville, 2001; Shaffer, Hall, &Vander Bilt, 1999; Welte et al., 2002). Of concern is that minority populations, especially American Indians, are four to six times more likely to be pathological gamblers and two to five times more likely to be problem gamblers than non-Indians (Petry, 2005; Wardman, El-Guebaly, & Hodgins, 2001).


Indian Gambling

Gambling has been present in American Indian culture for centuries, and it is estimated that 130 tribes from 30 different linguistic stocks played dice games of various kinds before the Europeans settled here (Roais, 1991). In the early 1980s, legal battles between states and Indian tribes on reservations ensued over bingo parlors and casinos. The case of California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987, and the court ruled that states do not have civil or regulatory power over tribes; if gaming was not prohibited by the states, it was within the scope of tribes' inherent self-governing sovereign nation status (Melmer, 1988). Congress subsequently passed the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) (RL. 100-497), defining the terms of legalized gambling on federally recognized Indian reservations in the United States. Prior to the passage of the IGRA, gambling had been legal in 48 states in the form of state-sponsored lotteries. With the passage of the IGRA, federally recognized tribes, within state boundaries, could now legally operate casinos on reservations after negotiating tribal-state compacts (Contreras, 2006). Congress divided gaming into three classes that were subject to tribal, state, and federal regulations (IGRA, 1988): (1) bingo and bingo games; (2) electronic, computer games; and (3) all other forms of gaming. Gaming is legal if it is authorized by tribal resolution and approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission, if the state permits gaming, and if a tribal-state compact is approved (IGRA, 1988). Tribes began opening gaming operations in large numbers. In 2006, 225 Indian tribes in 28 states generated $25.7 billion in gaming revenue (NIGA, 2006).

Pathological Gambling Defined

In 1994, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) defined pathological gambling as a progressive and chronic disorder that encompasses an unrelenting failure to resist impulses to gamble and where this "maladaptive behavior disrupts, or damages personal, family, or vocational pursuits" (p. …

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