Thursday, April 24, 2014
Indian Casinos...What are They Really Like?
I live in Connecticut, so I have grown accustomed to Indian Casinos and Indian Resorts and all the things that come with them. Recently, I spent my first overnight at the Quechan Resort and Casino referred to as The Q in Winterhaven, CA. I found it very different from the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun that I'm used to and it made me wonder, what is this phenomenon really? How many of these places are there? How many states have them? How many of them offer anything but gambling and food? Well, here are the answers that I found.
There are currently 479 Indian casinos, some of them also hotel resorts, some not. They operate in 28 states. There are 565 federally recognized Native American tribes in America and 242 of them operate some kind of a gaming center. This sounds like being a Native American means running a casino, and it seems as though they've cornered the gambling market.
Well, they did pull down a combined $28.1 billion in 2012. That seems like a lot of profits. It's an unimaginable amount of money to me. But, unlike some other corporations and so forth around the country, the Indian Casinos can say something besides just how much money they made.
The Indian Casinos around the country employ approximately 679,000 people and pay over $9 billion in taxes and shared payments to federal and state governments. The shared payments are complicated, but largely the tribes are voluntarily giving a portion of their profits back to the community.
Most Indian Casinos have a small museum about their tribe. These cultural centers are a great way to educate ourselves in the lives and history of these tribes. I have visited casinos run by tribes that I'd never heard of before my visit, like the Quechan of southwestern Arizona. I learned a great deal about the tribal heritage and their origins on my visit, just from visiting the tiny museum outside the arcade.
I liked the Quechan resort in Winterhaven, CA. The landscape outside the hotel was otherworldly and quite beautiful. The dunes were amazing. The pool with the lazy river was great. The hotel was comfortable. The restaurants were good. The people were friendly. And, according to my mother, the slots pay pretty good. Would I visit again? Yes. Do I gamble? Not really. An Indian resort hotel, is someplace that you can enjoy without playing one single slot.
But the Quechan was tiny by Indian Casino standards. I live right down the road from Foxwoods. This is the ground breaker that made all the rules as it went along. It wasn't the first. That honor goes to the Seminole Tribe in Hollywood, Florida who first opened a bingo hall in 1987 after an eight year legal battle for their rights to do so. But, Foxwoods is the standard for resorts. You can take your kids here. You can see IMAX movies, play laser tag, go to museums, see shows, go shopping, swim, play, and the adults can go and gamble. They have several hotels with all kinds of services. They even have the Schimitzun every year that brings together tribes from all over the country for a pow wow. It's hard to complain about the gambling when they've given back billions, helped their local community combat a depressed economy, and provided a high speed ferry for Long Island Sound. It's the Connecticut version of Vegas.
There was a time when Foxwoods was the largest casino in the world, but it's been surpassed. Currently, the Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is the largest, and it's all state of the art. This one doesn't even have a hotel--yet. It opens in the fall this year. The place is enormous though, and a great place for adult entertainment.
The Q is tiny when compared to such mammoth sized casinos, but does that make it less fun? Does that make it not worth your time? No. The place is great. And I think that's the thing about the Indian Casinos. I think that it doesn't really matter which one you go to. I think they're all beautiful, friendly, and fun. I do think that you should know what your casino of choice will be like. I think that you should always check one out online before you go. Make sure that your choice suits you.
Be aware of some things though. Over half of the casinos in the United States that are run by Native American Tribes don't have a hotel. Just because it's a casino doesn't mean that it has lodging. Check before you take a road trip. Also, look at the prices of the hotel. Foxwoods will charge you an arm and a leg to stay at one of their hotels, but a little guy like The Q will send out coupons and give great prices to get you to come. If you have trouble with the concept that I'm talking about just look at Vegas strip vs. Atlantic City in the off season. Find a deal. You don't always have to go to the big names to have a good time.
If you have kids with you, however, look for activities. There must be something besides gambling if you are to bring your children. Nothing irritates me more than seeing parents with their kids in some casino where there's nothing for the kids to do. Check it out. Make sure. It needs to be the kind of place you're going to enjoy.
The Indian Casino is here to stay. It's become part of the American Culture, and we should be proud of it and enjoy it. There are almost 500 of these relaxing, fun, and beautiful resorts around the country, and we should embrace them. So, check it out. Make a reservation. Go, eat at the buffet, play some slots, have a drink by the pool, and sleep in luxury. Take some time to check out the cultural center and learn about the tribe. It's a real treat that anyone can love.