Public Release: 

UC Riverside releases analysis of tribal government gaming in California

Native gaming brings jobs, income, to areas most in need of development

University of California - Riverside

The Center for California Native Nations (CCNN), located at the University of California, Riverside, has recently completed a comprehensive study of Indian gaming in California, including its impacts on tribal and local governments.

Results were released at a press briefing at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11 at the Palm Springs Convention Center, during the Western Indian Gaming Conference. Some of those findings are:

In 2005, thirty-three counties, representing seventy-four percent of California's population, are non-gaming. When examined at the tract level, 11% of California's population lives near a tribal gaming facility.

Average gaming density among California counties with gaming is 5.4 slot machines per 1,000 inhabitants. San Diego and Riverside Counties have 4.4 and 6 slots per 1,000 people, respectively. Colusa County has 41 slots per 1,000 people.

Three distinctive features differentiate California reservations from the rest of the reservations in the United States: large population growth, small sized reservations, and proportionally fewer people living on reservations with gaming enterprises.

Between 1990 and 2000, the American Indian population on California reservations (gaming and non-gaming) has grown 81.4%, which is equivalent to an annual growth rate of approximately 6%. By contrast, on the rest of the US reservations, the growth has been more subdued with a ten-year rate of 24%, equivalent to a 2% annual rate.

Between 1990 and 2000, the US Census figures for real income per capita reveal that 22% (17 tribes) of the California tribes exhibit consistent growth, 22% (17 tribes) aggressive growth, 18% (14 tribes) anemic growth, and 38% (30 tribes) decline. Gaming tribes have fared better than non-gaming tribes, with gaming tribes' per capita average income increasing 55% between 1990 and 2000 as opposed to 15% on non-gaming reservations.

The average income for American Indians in California remains well below the national average; in 1990 it was 42% of the national average and by 2000 it experienced only a modest increase by reaching a 53% of the national average income.

Between 1990 and 2000, the gaming tribes in California experienced a reduction in the percentage of families in poverty going from 36% in 1990 to 26% in 2000. At the national and state level, however, the percentage of families in poverty is between 9 and 10%.

Tribal government gaming in California, located on reservation lands, concentrates employment and other benefits in counties that need development the most.

Median family income in Census tracts within 10 miles of an Indian gaming facility in 1990 was merely $32,515 (in constant 2000 prices), as against $46,255 in the non-gaming tracts. By 2000, median family income grew significantly more in the gaming than in the non-gaming tracts (55% versus 33%).

The poorest communities in 1990 have captured the largest increases in median family income and greatest decreases in the number of families on public assistance over the following decade due to the establishment of tribal government gaming.

Analysis of federal grants directed at American Indians in California reveals that the opening of a new tribal gaming facility in a California county is associated with an additional $535,000 in federal American Indian grants for that county.

The introduction of gaming in an area had the effect of raising median family incomes in that and neighboring tracts by as much as 30-60 percent at very low levels of income. As median family income rises, this effect diminishes, meaning that tribal government gaming helps those that need it most.

Census tracts in close proximity to reservations with tribal government gaming experienced a more significant increase in overall employment growth (about 3.9 percent) between 1990 and 2000 than tracts not in close proximity to Indian gaming, even after controlling for population growth.

The total number of employed persons over 16 years increased 15.1% in gaming tracts compared to a 10.9% increase in non-gaming tracts. Both gaming and non-gaming tracts saw a slight uptick in overall unemployment rates from 6.9% to 7.5% in non-gaming tracts and from 7.3% to 7.7% in gaming tracts.

"This research is the first ever conducted that provides an interdisciplinary and detailed assessment of the effects of Indian gaming on tribes, on their surrounding neighbors, and on the State of California," said Joel Martin, director of the Center for California Native Nations and interim dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. "Policy makers have consistently asked for this kind of study and now they have it."

Anthony Miranda, a member of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in Temecula and Chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA), said the study provides an important benchmark for analyzing change over the term of the existing tribal-state compacts.

"The first compacts between California tribal governments and the state were signed in 2000," said Miranda, an alumnus of UC Riverside. "This research provides an important evaluation of the impact of tribal government gaming during its initial growth phase in the 1990's. Now we will have the methodology to generate a systematic analysis of the impacts of gaming under those compacts, which include mitigation and revenue-sharing provisions for both local governments and non-gaming tribes."

To produce the study, UC Riverside's Center for California Native Nations assembled a research team that includes economists, anthropologists, political scientists and others. They used 1990 and 2000 U.S. census data, tribal and local government survey data and interview data to analyze the social, and economic impacts of Indian gaming. The funding came from the Pechanga Tribal Government.

"Maximizing the benefits of Indian gaming is a goal of all governmental policy makers, especially those from tribal governments," said Kate Spilde Contreras, Managing Director of the Center for California Native Nations who was also the project manager. "There is a clear need for data about Indian gaming. There is also a need for a serious academic analysis. Congress, local governments, the press and the public have repeatedly asked for more information on Indian gaming than is currently available. This study provides a broad assessment of the impact of tribal governments on the state of California."

UC Riverside is near neighbor to more than 30 federally recognized tribes and California Indians helped found the campus and established its first academic chair. The campus offers one of only two Ph.D. programs in American Indian History in the nation. Other institutional resources include the Rupert Costo Library of American Indian History, one of the largest collections of research materials relating to Native Americans in the nation, and the Center for California Native Nations.

Facts about UCR's Study of Tribal Government Gaming

The objective of this study is to evaluate the social and economic impacts of tribal government gaming operations on tribal and local governments in California. The absence of such analysis has impaired public discussions about tribal government gaming and related public policy issues. The study relies primarily upon publicly available data, especially the 1990 and 2000 US Censuses. Close analysis of Census data offers a "before and after" snapshot of conditions in California during Indian gaming's initial growth phase. However, the Census data does not capture effects of California's tribal state gaming compacts since they did not go into effect until 2000. To analyze Indian gaming impacts since 2000, the research team conducted surveys of tribal and local government officials and in-depth case studies of individual tribal governments. More definitive analysis of post-2000 trends will have to await the 2010 Census.


Results of the study were released at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11, at the Western Indian Gaming Conference in Palm Springs. A longer presentation is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 12. Reporters wishing to attend the briefing at the Palm Springs Convention Center should first register at the press counter at the conference's Registration Center in the adjacent Wyndham Palm Springs Hotel, 888 Tahquitz Canyon Way. For further information, call Kris Lovekin at UC Riverside at 951-827-2495.

The research team from UC Riverside:

  • Joel Martin, Director of the Center for California Native Nations. Professor of Religious Studies and History, and Interim Dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. Holds the Costo Chair in American Indian Studies at UCR.
  • Kate Spilde Contreras, Managing Director of the Center for California Native Nations. Formerly a Senior Research Associate with the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. Director of Research for the National Indian Gaming Association; and a Policy Analyst for the National Gambling Impact Study Commission.
  • Anil Deolalikar, Professor of Economics, Director of the Public Policy Initiative and expert in poverty and human development and policy reform in developing countries.
  • Gloria Gonzalez-Rivera, Associate Professor of Economics, Chair of Economics Department.and an expert in development econometrics.
  • Mindy Marks, Assistant Professor of Economics and an expert in health economics and applied microeconomics.
  • Martin Johnson, Assistant Professor of Political Science and an expert in American political behavior; American politics; and public policy
  • Paul Gelles, a former UCR Professor of Anthropology who is an expert in indigenous development issues.

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