Casinos and Low Wage Jobs

Tribal gaming began in Florida when the Seminole tribe opened a huge bingo hall on their reservation. The hall was an instant hit and soon players were traveling from all parts of Florida to play the high stakes bingo games. After the Seminoles beat back a significant court challenge the doors were opened for other tribes to enter the gaming industry. In recent years several states have set up their own casinos much to the chagrin of the tribes. When new casinos are proposed the first thing casino advocates will point out is the number of jobs that will be created. While it is true that casinos produce thousands of new jobs many critics say that pay scales are low and in many cases below the federal poverty level. Many casinos will not schedule 40 hour weeks to avoid paying for employee health insurance.

At Native American casinos and bingo halls conditions are much different because the tribes are considered sovereign nations. At tribal casinos non-tribal members may have to forfeit certain rights. A few years ago Rich Iacone was fired from his job without cause two weeks before his 60th birthday. Iacone had worked for the casino for 13 years and had a good record. The federal agency that handles discrimination could not take Iacona’s case because the nation is a sovereign Indian tribe. Iacone couldn’t take the tribe to court because they are immune from lawsuits. Iacone told reporters “I was denied my opportunity to bring this before an impartial justice system. When you work for an Indian nation, you forfeit any civil rights an American citizen normally would be entitled to.”

Players at tribal casinos need to realize that they are actually in another country with its own laws and courts. If you have an accident at a tribal casino or slip and break a bone your fate will be determined by a tribal court. Outcomes for non-tribal members have not been good in tribal courts. On Indian land tribal law applies. If you are thinking of applying for a job at a tribal casino be aware that tribal casinos pay 7% less than the average industry wages. Average starting rates were 10% lower than non-tribal casinos. There is little upward mobility at tribal casinos.

When tribal casinos are proposed the developers will emphasize the number of jobs that will be created without mentioning the pay scale. People need to take a look at the quality of jobs that will be created. Do they pay a living wage? Do they provide full time employment with health insurance? These are things that need to be considered by the public.

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