The Impact of Indian Gaming on Indian Education in New Mexico


  • Thaddieus W. Conner
  • William A. Taggart New Mexico State University


In 2006, Indian gaming revenues reached an astounding $25.7 billion, representing more than half of all gaming dollars in the United States (National Indian Gaming Association [NIGA], 2009). Under the purview of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988, which established the legal foundations of casino style gaming, Indian gaming was intended to improve the quality of life for native people by “promoting tribal economic development, self-sufficiency, and strong tribal governments” (e.g. Anders, 1998; Eadington, 2004; McCulloch, 1994).  Since the bill was signed into law, Indian gaming has surpassed the expectations of lawmakers and tribal leaders alike (Meister, 2007).   Today, according to Meister (2007), there are 227 tribes out of approximately 350 in the lower 48 states who participate in casino style gaming, offering a range of games from slot machines to bingo.  These gaming nations are found in 30 states and operate over 400 gaming facilities.

Although not all Indian gaming enterprises have been successful, tribal governments have come to view gaming dollars as a critical revenue stream necessary to support important public services (Taylor and Kalt, 2005). Surprisingly, little systematic research has explored the relationship between Indian gaming and the social and economic consequences on American Indian communities (see Gardner, Kalt, and Spilde, 2005).  There is, however, a mounting body of anecdotal evidence suggesting the large role of gaming revenues in supporting an array of tribal initiatives, including many geared to the improvement of Indian communities (e.g. NIGA, 2006).  More generally, in a recent annual report released by the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA, 2006), six tribal government services were identified as being the primary recipients of gaming dollars.  Of these six, a “catch-all” category including education, child/elderly care, culture and charity, received the highest investment of gaming dollars, representing approximately 20% of all net gaming revenues in 2006; a pattern also evident in 2004 (NIGA, 2004).  While it is not possible to discern individual priorities within this category, this substantial investment begs the question – Beyond the economic impacts of Indian gaming, what social impacts is gaming having on tribal members of those native nations who pursue this option?


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