In 2020, the Washington tribes contributed $ 5.6 billion to gross state product and employed every 86 Washington residents, according to the latest figures. a report on economic and social benefits from the Washington Indian Gaming Association.
Although the tribe accounted for $ 6.6 billion in gross state product in 2019, a loss of $ 1 billion during the pandemic, the report also highlights billions of dollars in wages, purchasing power, and state and local taxes.
The report, compiled by economist Jonathan Taylor, examines the most available data from 23 of the state’s 29 federally recognized tribes, noting declining unemployment and increasing the achievements and incomes of Washington natives living on reservations. Taylor is a senior political fellow at the Institute of Indigenous Peoples of the University of Arizona.
“This report finds out misconceptions about the economic activities and influence of tribal governments and our businesses. If you look at the schedule of Indian games and the level of unemployment, health or education, you will see a direct correlation. We are also diversifying our economy through public health centers, golf, timber, conference rooms and music venues, ”said Rebecca George, executive director of the Washington Indian Gaming Association, in an interview with McClatchy.
“Indian games are finally moving the needle in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go. The needs of the Indian people remain so acute. Indian gaming and breeding businesses are helping to fill the gap. ”
Remaining one of the top ten employers in the state, government tribes and businesses, including casinos, markets, gas stations and timber, create more than 37,000 jobs, meaning Tribes is ahead of Costco or Walmart in the state. The report estimates that 54,000 jobs in Washington go back to the tribes.
“If Tribes were out-of-state corporations that brought this economic activity and public spirit to Washington, lawmakers would probably propose tax cuts or cuts,” Taylor wrote in the report. “Washington has benefited significantly from the economic and social revival of the Indian country and will for many years to come.”
The report notes that 72% of employees are not indigenous, which means that tribes provide jobs for the surrounding communities.
“We are rooted here. We are not a corporation that rises and moves, ”George said.
Taxes and breeding
The Washington tribes paid a total of $ 1.2 billion in state and local taxes, the report said.
Two studies cited in the report note that tribal governments face unique challenges, relying on revenues generated by their state-owned enterprises to fund basic services rather than taxes.
“We have our own fire, police and medical services,” George said.
Under India’s federal gambling law, Washington law and reciprocal agreements, tribes pay at the state and national levels for gambling regulation and compensation to local governments for public services such as government, fire and police; smoking cessation and gambling problems; maintenance of infrastructure and roads, as well as charitable donations using gaming dollars and a tax on fuel and cigarettes.
“The costs of breeding companies are not taxable,” said George. “There is an opinion that we do not pay taxes. I think this is a true misconception. The game really was one of the first opportunities to access capital. Gambling dollars are essentially our tax base, 100% of Tribal’s profits are government revenue. ”
Proceeds from the games are invested in local communities in things like schools, health care, housing, public safety, natural resources, charities, transportation, environmental restoration and more, George said.
“Reserve lands are trusted by the federal government, and opportunities for development are few. Indian games bring in revenue that is reinvested in government programs of the tribal population, state and local communities. Billions of dollars in salaries and purchases from suppliers almost immediately flow from reservations to the general economy of our state, ”she said.
Improving the lives of indigenous peoples
According to the report, over the past 30 years, Indigenous people living in the Washington Reserve have increased their inflation-adjusted incomes by 46%, unemployment has fallen by 31% and college tuition has increased by 65%.
“My dad was the chairman of the tribe. I was 15 years old when the casino opened, and I remember the message of the day was: work, work, work, ”said George. “I didn’t understand why it was so important, but now I know we didn’t have another job. It was one of the first few jobs outside of working for a tribal government that was available to us. It’s a well-paid job with health benefits and career paths to leadership. ”
In 2018, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission found only “minor” improvements for Indigenous people in the federal government’s efforts.
“Federal funding for Indian programs in government remains very insufficient to meet the most basic needs that the federal government is required to provide,” wrote the commission.
Indian healthcare is funded by part of other healthcare programs – nearly 50% of Medicaid in 2017 and a quarter of the US per capita.
“Although booking revenues have been growing faster than state citizens, we are still 50% behind. Due to the fact that there are many differences in health, especially during a pandemic. Healthcare is a high priority, ”she said.
The tribes also follow a cultural approach to problem gambling, George said.
“We take the health of our community very seriously. We work in different directions to meet the needs of those suffering from gambling addiction. The tribes fund more than $ 3 million a year in prevention, advocacy, treatment and self-exclusion programs, and support nonprofit and government programs to help those in need and their families, whether they are relatives or not. ” said George.
Consequences of COVID
The tribes fulfilled health mandates and worked with local, state and federal health officials to establish protocols during the pandemic. Indigenous communities suffered high transfer rates and losses, causing tribal governments to close tribal casinos, schools and businesses. Later, Native Americans became the most vaccinated group in the countrywith some Washington tribes involved in vaccine trials.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, tribal governments cared about the needs of their own population reservations. We have done everything we can to alleviate the economic impact of COVID on our communities, ”George said.
Prior to the pandemic, more than 75% of the tribe’s budgets came from Tribal businesses including games, compared to the 1960s and 1970s, when tribes were largely dependent on federal funding, the report said.
In 2019, the tribe accounted for $ 6.6 billion in gross state product and $ 5.6 billion in 2020.
In 2019, only 20% of Tribal’s budgets came from grants and contracts. This increased to 33% in 2020 as a result of federal aid.
“It remains unclear how sustainable this shift in federal funding will be. However, the data in 2019 correspond to the data of 2017 and earlier, which indicates that the tribes maintained their financial independence before the pandemic, “- wrote Taylor.
Although casinos have been closed most of the year, Tribes still paid $ 26.5 million to the Washington State Gambling Commission in 2020. Despite the pandemic, it was only about $ 5 million less than the previous year.
“Were it not for COVID-19, the tribes would be even more present, and the resilience of the tribal population promises a full recovery if possible,” the report said.