Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

`Bible Belt' Indians Don't Take to Slots Unlike Indian Tribes That Rushed into Widespread Legalized Gaming, the Cherokees Wager Only on Bingo

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

`Bible Belt' Indians Don't Take to Slots Unlike Indian Tribes That Rushed into Widespread Legalized Gaming, the Cherokees Wager Only on Bingo

Article excerpt

THE bumper stickers imitate the old "I {love} New York" stickers. Except here they say: "I {love} Cherokee Nation's Bingo Outpost."

From Tahlequah, the Cherokee Nation's headquarters, drive south to Interstate 40, past the towns of Hanson and Muldrow, then north to Roland near the Arkansas border. The Bingo Outpost is a long, low, windowless building with bright red trim and 16,000 square feet of space jammed with mostly white-haired bingo players. Doors open at 11:30 every morning.

It is possible, though not highly probable, to win the MegaBingo prize of $250,000 to $1 million any day of the week.

"It took us a long time to get into bingo," says George Bearpaw, executive director of Cherokee tribal operations in Tahlequah. "Some of our councilmen are deacons and preachers, and their communities didn't want big-time casino gambling."

Bingo is entertainment here. No clatter of slot machines, no dice rolling. This is Bible-Belt country going back to 1820 when the first Christian mission was established. Definitions of immorality in this part of Oklahoma still include gambling.

Not so in many other states where tribes have embraced all kinds of gambling. At last count, 72 tribes in 18 states have gambling, including casinos. The National Indian Gaming Association estimates $6 billion is wagered annually.

In her State of the Nation address last month, Wilma Mankiller, principal chief of the Cherokee, said revenues from bingo had exceeded the tribe's projections by 150 percent.

Non-Indians with considerable interest in gambling revenues dislike one of the principal benefits of Indian gaming: Tribes pay no federal taxes. Indian tribes are sovereign nations. The Internal Revenue Service need not apply.

Non-Indian Donald Trump, owner of three tax-paying casinos, rose from the audience two weeks ago at a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., to denounce Indian gambling.

"Organized crime is rampant on Indian reservations!" he shouted. …

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