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Do Tribal / Indian Casinos Help the Locals?

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There have been many examples of local people taking advantages of the new job opportunities that come to them with that new shining tribal casino complex. Other locals, on the other hand, fall into the trap of endless gambling until they reach the rock bottom with no way out.

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Leandra Eagle is one of the great examples of the girl who became happier and more able to support herself due to the Wind River Casino that replaced an old bingo hall 2 years ago in the Wyoming's Northern Arapaho Tribe. She was 19, unconfident and unhappy on a very small salary working as a fast-food cook, when she decided to start working in that new casino complex, which is now bringing her 3-times bigger salary and small group of staff to manage.

Eagle shares her feeling about the change in her life: "I'm getting a lot more bills paid, and things are getting a lot better.” The statement seems a little modest considering that now, at 21, she is planning to buy a house and take courses at the community college on the savings she managed to collect during her work at the casino.

The impact on the local community after 2 years since the casino opened its doors is now showing, as there are 300 employees that are enjoying their new improved lives, giving a chance for better prospects to this little reservation south of Riverton. The unemployment is one of the most problematic issues in the area. The Bureau of Indian Affairs outlines the unemployment rate between 30% and 50%.

Nevertheless, the casino has not brought luck to all of the residents. The problem with gambling addiction is showing to be the most drastic, as it is considered to be more serious than the alcohol or drug addictions.

A licensed professional counselor at Fremont Counseling in Riverton, Becky Parker, expresses her concerns: "We're seeing problem gamblers who cash the paycheck and go to the casino. Pretty soon, there went the rent money or grocery money."

The statistics and other monitoring methods predict both positive and negative effects growing in the area in the next several years. This means more jobs and more addicted gamblers, throwing their life away on the casino tables.

It Is obvious from the above and other examples, that in small areas that are facing slow pace of life and high unemployment rate, casinos represent both: opportunities and threats for local people. The sole fact that there are not many other activities is making people gamble more. In the example with the Wyoming's Northern Arapaho Tribe, the casino replaced the old bingo hall, reducing the number of activities further. Nevertheless, due to the improved economic situation, associated with casinos, i.e. more jobs that bring better quality of life; it is clear that the opportunities for fast and effective economy regeneration are there.

To take advantage of the casinos but avoid the social problems that casinos represent, some sort of solution needs to be found. It has to be suggested that separate casino tax could be introduced to create facilities to help problem gamblers put their life back on track. It is also important that the services are available that help gamblers help themselves, such as self-exclusion option. This could be taking further by allowing the members of the family or close associates of the certain gambler to apply to the casino to restrict him/her from visiting the casino. Someone from the casino could assess the subject and make a decision based on his addiction levels.

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