Native American tribe-owned casinos generate over 20% of the United States’ gaming revenues, primarily found in about half of the states in the country. There are almost 224 tribes involved in tribal gaming that have seen marginal success in the industry. Despite being a relatively recent phenomenon, it remains highly controversial across the continent. 

Even among Native Americans themselves, a few think they shouldn’t be involved in this kind of business. Some fear that those who participate will eventually forget tribal customs due to gambling’s popularity in their community. However, no matter how many stones they throw, it seems like Indian casinos are here to stay. 

History of Native American Gaming

It began when a Chippewa couple named Helen and Russell Bryan received their property tax bill for the first time in the 1970s. They lived in a trailer on Indian land in Itasca County, Minnesota, and still got a lawsuit. The Bryans claimed they are not subject to any property tax to the county as they reside on reservation land. 

After losing in the district court and the state supreme court, they immediately filed their complaint at the US Supreme Court and got a different ruling. As ruled by Justice Brennan, the decision stated that states had no rights to govern any Indian activity done on Indian land and didn’t have the authority to collect property taxes on reservation lands. 

The first-ever Indian gaming establishment, a bingo hall, was opened in 1979 by the Seminole Tribe at Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The county sheriff tried to shut the place down but instead got sued by the district court through the initiative of Howard Tommie.  

After the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) legislation in 1988, Native American tribes finally had liberty to build casinos and any other gaming establishments, provided they form a Tribal-State compact. In some states these became the only places where locals state-locals could gamble, other than secure online casinos open to Americans at a national level. 

Tribal Gaming in the United States at Present

At the end of 2020, more than 527 licensed Native American gaming establishments were operating across 29 states. All these operations have brought revenue of over $33 billion. Over the years, the activity has both been a popular tourist attraction and a driver of profit. 

However, changes in the country’s gambling laws and regulations have significantly shifted the tribal gaming landscape. In the past years, only tribal casinos were the only form of gambling offered in several states, presenting opportunities for various tribes to earn more money. 

The Alturas Indian Rancheria serves as a notable example of Indian tribes adapting to the shifting gaming landscape. A federally recognized member of the Achomawi Indian tribe in California, the Alturas Indian Rancheria has worked with the company, Great Luck. For the tribe, Great Luck made a proposal with the most suitable technology to accommodate their regular customers. 

Some tribes that have followed the path of the Alturas tribe include the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes in Oklahoma. These tribes plan to launch a site that caters to gamers outside the United States. The Midwest’ Lake Superior Chippewa Indians have also taken action if the federal government starts sanctioning online tribal gambling in the future.

Future of Tribal and Online Gambling

Native American tribes will continue to operate physical casinos. It remains uncertain whether the prevalence and widespread of online gambling will negatively impact revenue or continue to provide opportunities for expansion and growth.

As the landscape of virtual gaming continues to change and grow complex, there will be a demand for professional legal counsels that can guide various tribes in keeping up with the current trend. They are the ones who have enough experience and knowledge in the laws concerning skill-based games and real-money gaming.  

One thing holds for the governing gaming laws of North Americans: the industry will continue to become complex as ever. Online sports betting, private and tribal casinos, and other businesses will jockey for more positions as new opportunities in legislation emerge. 

How Native Americans Can Benefit From Online Gaming Legalization

Lagging operations re-energize as Native American casinos continue to adapt to current trends and technology, allowing a massive increase in profit for various tribes. As they open up to the prospect of online gaming legalization, the anxiety of the industry disappearing right before their eyes may be relieved. 

The benefits of embracing modern technology in gaming are endless. Not only does this give immediate benefits, but it also prepares the community for the intergenerational and long-term plusses that will become monumental in this shifting landscape. 


For many years, Native American tribes have been divided on whether to permit gambling operations or not. Virtual betting is just as factional. Those that support online casinos to fight poverty and high unemployment rates in the community deem this current trend the most logical step to venture.

Author Bio

Analisse Weathers has been writing about sports betting and online casinos for the past ten years. Her interests include baccarat, poker, and horse racing. When she’s not writing for OnlineUnitedStatesCasinos.com, she’s out in the woods camping and enjoying the nature around her.