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Indian Gaming and Tribal Sovereignty

The Casino Compromise

Steven Andrew Light and Kathryn R.L. Rand

New in Paperback: September 2007
xvi, 240 pages, 6 x 9
Paper ISBN 978-0-7006-1553-7, $17.95

Also available in cloth:
ISBN 978-0-7006-1406-6, $29.95

book cover imageFrom Connecticut to California, Native American tribes have entered the gambling business, some making money and nearly all igniting controversy. The image of the “casino Indian” is everywhere. Some observers suspect corruption or criminal ties, or have doubts about tribal authenticity. Many tribes disagree, contending that Indian gaming has strengthened tribal governments and vastly improved the quality of reservation life for American Indians.

This book provides the clearest and most complete account to date of the laws and politics of Indian gaming. Steven Light and Kathryn Rand explain how it has become one of today’s most politically charged phenomena: at stake are a host of competing legal rights and political interests for tribal, state, and federal governments. As Indian gaming grows, policymakers struggle with balancing its economic and social costs and benefits.

Light and Rand emphasize that tribal sovereignty is the very rationale that allows Indian gaming to exist, even though U.S. law subjects that sovereignty to strict congressional authority and compromised it even further through the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. Their book describes Indian gaming and explores today’s hottest political issues, from the Pequots to the Plains Indians, with examples that reflect a wide range of tribal experience: from hugely successful casinos to gambling halls with small markets and low grosses to tribes that chose not to pursue gaming. Throughout, they contend that tribal sovereignty is the key to understanding Indian gaming law and politics and guiding policy reform—and that Indian gaming even represents a unique opportunity for the emergence of tribal self-determination.

As political pressure on tribes to concede to state interests grows, this book offers a practical approach to policy reform with specific recommendations for tribal, federal, state, and local policymakers. Meticulously argued, Indian Gaming and Tribal Sovereignty provides an authoritative look at one of today’s most vexing issues, showing that it’s possible to establish a level playing field for all concerned while recognizing the measure of sovereignty—and fairness—to which American Indians are entitled.

“Light and Rand have studied the history, legalities, economics, politics, and social issues surrounding Indian casinos to produce this readable and highly informative volume. Their work, the most significant and comprehensive book on the subject to date, remarkably examines and documents from both Indian and non-Indian perspectives the wide array of concerns, public policy shifts, and sovereignty issues that have surfaced in the wake of the ever-increasing visibility of Native American casinos. Highly recommended.”—Choice

“The best book on Indian gaming to date. . . . Belongs in every serious American Indian studies collection.”—Wicazo Sa Review: A Journal of Native American Studies

“The most detailed study to date of Indian gaming. The authors show how money, the media, and misapprehensions continue to cloud the efforts of First Nations to attain economic sovereignty and deftly explain the complicated and ambivalent relationship between tribes and the federal and state governments.”—David Wilkins, author of American Indian Politics and the American Political System

“Light and Rand succeed in making a comprehensive, balanced, and even entertaining analysis of the complex issues relating to gaming on Indian reservations.”—Alexander Tallchief Skibine, author of Your Rights as American Indians

“Every state legislator, governor, and Congressman should read this book.”—LaDonna Harris, President, Americans for Indian Opportunity

STEVEN ANDREW LIGHT is associate professor of political science and public administration at the University of North Dakota. KATHRYN R.L. RAND is associate professor of law at the University of North Dakota School of Law, where both are founders and codirectors of the Institute for the Study of Tribal Gaming Law and Policy.

 

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