The Realities of Tribal Sovereignty, Indian Gaming and Their Money Making Machine: What They Don't Tell You and What the Public Needs to Know

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Hiding beneath the cloak of sovereign immunity federally recognized Indian tribes can ignore virtually ”’any”’ state law, many federal laws and violate the Constitutional rights of non-Indians with seeming impunity.

While I am not a legal expert on tribal sovereignty, based upon my own first-hand experience as a Commander of a State Police unit monitoring tribal gaming on a Connecticut reservation, I do not believe this is the outcome or state of affairs that either Congress or the courts expected or anticipated.


I have analyzed numerous state-tribe gaming compacts that allow tribes in most instances to create and apply their own set of laws. Based upon my experience and research here are some examples of situations permitted to exist at Indian gaming facilities:

*Non-Indian employees of recognized Indian tribes are not protected by either state or federal labor laws. A recent OSHA ruling that threatens this state of affairs is being heavily attacked by tribal hired lobbyists in Congress. Non-Indian employees are subject to arbitrary laws created by the tribe and their tribal courts. Employees and patrons of casinos on federal reservations effectively relinquish their constitutional rights.

*If Indian children, elders or women are abused on a reservation and tribal police and tribal courts do not or refuse to respond, the abuse simply continues. State child protection and sexual assault laws do not apply. Given that the tribal police and tribal courts usually are under the influence of the tribal authority, this happens more than the public realizes. Recently a tribe in Minnesota was found to be protecting child predators.

*Casinos can legally ignore their debts. As a sovereign nation a tribe can purchase goods or contract for services and legally refuse to pay for the purchase or default on the contractor. The aggrieved cannot file a civil suit in state court to recover the money. If they can find an attorney to represent them in a tribal court, they can attempt to recover the debt, but the court is in the employ of the tribal government and serves at its whim. Recently, a gaming tribe in California refused to pay a contractor. This contractor tried to pull off of the project until the debt was settled. The tribe refused the company access to the reservation to recover its heavy equipment. The contractor was out what he was due and also deprived of his means of making a living. Why? The tribe has sovereignty.

*The Indian Casino Industry is not supposed to violate federal regulations and laws but they do every day. It is a commonly known fact that government agencies funded by taxpayer dollars don