Journal Article Review


This is a review of Randall K. Q. Akee, Katherine A. Spilde, and Jonathan B. Taylor (2015). The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and Its Effects on American Indian Economic Development. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 29(3), 185-208.

Literature Review

     Randal K. Q. Ake is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California. Katherine Spilde is an Associate Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management and Endowed Chair of the Sycuan Institute on Tribal Gaming, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, and Jonathan B. Taylor is President of the Taylor Policy Group, Sarasota, Florida. Akee is the corresponding author for this study (Randall K. Q. Akee, 2015).

     This review will summarize the journal article and offer comments. There has been changes relevant to this the topic and additional research can be done to examine tribal government demographic and racial composition in “Indian Country” as many individuals are not tribal members but employed in a capacity to make administrative, governmental and business decisions.

Introduction and Summary

     The key research problem identified in the study is how Indian gaming operations have effected Indian people’s lives on American Indian reservations and their economies (Randall K. Q. Akee, 2015).

     Akee, et al (2015) demonstrate that laws like the Dawes Act had been attempted to promote economic self-sufficiency means for Indians by promoting the innovation of individual land ownership for tribal members but by 1934 about 62 percent of the allotment had been taken from the individual members and by fraudulent means in some cases.  The justification for the Akee and the other authors involved in this study is to analyze the effect Indian Gaming has had on economic development on Indian reservations in the United States. There have been many federal laws designed to give Indians and tribal governments opportunities to rise above poverty level wages and improve quality of life tribal members. Changes in federal law that has seen tremendous effect for economic stability of tribal governments and income growth on reservation has been directly attributable to the results of the Indian Gaining Regulatory Act of 1988.

     The focus of the study is on Indian Country in the United States and the effect tribal gaming has on social and economic conditions on or near reservations. The study demonstrates how Indian Gaming has improved economic stability for some tribal governments and the communities they are built near. This report examines Indian Policy in the United States as it evolved through allotment, extermination to self-determination policies of the Federal Government regarding Indian people. Also known as Indian reservations, the conditions of tribal members living on those reservations has historically and statistically scored below the national averages of other races according to US Census data provided in this study. This report gives an overview of policymaking leading up to Indian self-determination and self-sufficiency from which Indian gaming has grown. (Randall K. Q. Akee, 2015)

     Quantitative data was assembled to compare US Census based data. The Data in table 1 of the study evaluates and compares the indicators of social and economic conditions of American Indians to all other races between 1990 and 2000. While additional data compares federal per capital spending and a final illustration comparing growth among industry competitors.

     How has the federal law and policy for economic development of tribal governments improved the social and economic benefits tribal members? The objective of IGRA was to provide tribal governments a means to increase benefits for tribal members. The target population are tribal members living on or near the reservation who benefit from Indian Gaming operated by Tribal Governments. Data collection methods were conducted using US Census data and other collaborate reports and studies conducted about Indian Gaming effects. Federal agencies such as the Congressional Research Service (CSR) furnished data for comparative analysis.  US Census data was used to produce a comparative analysis with all other races and the gaming business industry in the US.

Findings and Conclusions

     Tribal Governments are obligated by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 to invest 100 % of gaming revenues to improve tribal welfare. Many reservations are establishing economic development corporations like the Citizen Potawatomi Nation who created a corporation that provides the necessary capital to tribal members and other Native Americans to invest in small businesses (Way, 2016). In the past other grant-funded federal development economic efforts failed but Indian gaming produced sustained revenues for most tribes that built the facilities. Class III gaming, commonly known as slot machines or slots, is the largest contributor to successful tribal gaming facilities but hinder sovereignty issues as those tribes are required to make agreement or compacts with their respective state governments in which they reside.

    These results answer the original research question by demonstrating that Indian Gaming is supported by US Federal law, known as the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, and serves the welfare and economic benefit of tribal members on and or near the reservation.

     Final conclusions made by the authors indicate that IGRA has been an economic success overall. The implications are Tribal Governments are utilizing tribal gaming as a primary source of funding, but this may become limited. Regional exclusivity to customer markets gained through tribal-state compacts are going to be dissipating as States like Michigan legalize additional gambling like pari-mutuel and online betting. According to Janie Hall in her dissertation to Walden University, Wang (2013) says “leaders who notice an increase in their industry realize the need for creativity in effort to capture the customer base in the competitive market” (Hall, 2015) The leaders in this case are tribal governments that utilize gaming as a primary means of funding welfare and benefit programs for Indian people. More business corporations are using the Corporate Social Responsibility model to keep stakeholders informed of philanthropic activity and other social benefits. “In spite of the substantial investments made by tribes across the United States, the academic literature on tribal gaming’s CSR-type activities is often difficult to document due to changing definitions and methodologies” (Sandra Sun-Ah Ponting, 2016).

Comment and Recommendations: 

     The findings in this study are significant as they support the concept of tribal gaming as a sustainable resource to fund tribal operations meant to benefit tribal members and other Indians. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, along with recent empirical data. largely supports the success of Indian gaming due to its corporate structure as the business is not geared to shareholder value such as the Walt Disney Company who have investors located throughout the world. Tribal Gaming, according to this study, benefits tribal communities and neighboring communities who maintain more of a philanthropic approach to managing gaming revenues. Becoming a CSR organization can demand a business promote more awareness of individual need. In a study of gambling and alcohol,  Native American-specific demographic factors could include the name of the tribe; grew up on a reservation; currently reside on a reservation; bingo, casinos, types of gambling on the reservation where respondent resides; is the reservation considered “dry”; does the respondent have a Native American tradition (Dave A. Patterson, 2015)

     An area of this report I would change is the section explaining the 3 different classes of gaming involved with tribal gaming. I would be less detailed about the way revenue is generated and concentrate more on the social and economic benefits of individuals. Indian gaming employs many non-tribal Studies about the number of tribal members who compose the tribal government are not readily available in a data base search. It would be interesting to contrast professional positions by demographic data to determine how many tribal members are part of decisions that determine program policy, design and implementation.


Dave A. Patterson, e. a. (2015). Sociocultural Influences on Gambling and Alcohol Use Among. HHS Public Access: Author Manuscript, 1387-1404.

Hall, J. A. (2015). Tribal Gaming Leader Strategies Toward a Sustainable Future . Walden University ScholarWorks.

Randall K. Q. Akee, K. A. (2015). The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and Its Effects on American Indian Economic Development. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 185-208.

Sandra Sun-Ah Ponting, J. P. (2016). Identifying Opportunities to Inform and Inspire: Tribal Casino Employee Perceptions of Tribal Self Sufficiency and Philanthropy. UNLV Gaming Research & Review Journal, 85-103.

Way, E. (2016). Raising Capital in Indian Country . American Indian Law Review, 167-200.

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