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The Trials And Tribulations Of The Indian Casinos Tribal Leaders

Gaming is nothing new to Native Americans, even though in earlier days one would hardly have expected to find Indian casinos. Instead The Chumash people would entertain themselves with just two games of note, games of chance and games that required skill with folks betting on who they thought would win. Each village had its own designated area where these games would take place, this was called malamtepupi.

With the advent of Indian casinos still a long way off, Payas was a game played with a hoop and a pole. Sounds exciting, yes? The hoop or ring was created from a buckskin wrapped willow twig. This would be propelled in a straight line on the floor and picking the appropriate time, the player using his skill, would aim the pole for the hoop's center.

Team games were also very popular, one such game was 'alewsa or Peon. This involved two teams each with two or more players. One of the teams would each have one white or one short black bone or stick concealed in their hands. The object of this game was to prevent the guessing team discovering the correct hand in which the bone/stick was being hidden.

From these very humble origins, the games in the 70's & 80's would be seen to take on a whole new dimension. As state lotteries grew, many tribes in California and Florida started staging Bingo games to raise revenue. Offering prizes larger than was legally allowed, it wasn't long before the tribes were threatened with closure. Taking the states to the federal court in both '79 and '87 the governments ruling was that gambling could only take place where it was allowed and regulated by the state, That said, with Indian casinos, tribes would be allowed to engage in such practices totally unhindered by state control.

In 1988, this would be amended with the introduction of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in Congress. Eventually with the passage of the IGRA, negotiation over games and revenues with the states would eventually be required. Whilst recognizing the tribal governments being the 'main' beneficiaries of revenues generated with the use of these funds as a key source in developing their communities, the independent states had made their point, no doubt feeling marginalized from the fall out of the two previous lawsuits. Surely after all the years of poverty that our Native Indians have had to endure, isn't it now time to live & let live? Has nobody ever heard of 'Land of the Free'?