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Indian Gaming Looks to Itself for Inspiration

Indian gaming across the country has a remarkable amount of leverage in the industry and leaders, despite universal economic troubles, are looking to stoke an economic revival in “Indian Country” through self reliance.

The mantra is ‘Buy Indian’, and National Indian Gaming Association leaders and other trade groups are rallying everyone from tribal casino top brass to tribal governments to help their own by buying goods and services from Native American firms.

NIGA chairman Ernie Stevens laid out the strong message during a Wednesday press conference at their annual convention in Phoenix. Others backed the sentiment saying that during this time of uncertainty, the importance of buoying Indian business interests can’t be overstated.

“We know we are in a time of economic challenge,” said top NIGA official Mark Van Norma. “By joining together like this we have a lot of power.”

Words are one thing, but support, in the form of concrete funding—and a lot of it—is what’s really needed as this concept of Indian promotion isn’t a new idea, regardless of the nation’s economy. And the statistics speak for themselves. Despite billions invested in Indian gaming, the poverty rate, at over 25 percent, is more than double the national average.

“I am here to tell you we have to do a darn better job than we have done in the past,” said Kurt Lugar, executive director of the Northern Plains Indian Gaming Association.

A cornerstone of this new plan is the American Indian Business Network, which was put together years ago but has never taken off. The retooling of the organization includes a formal nonprofit entity, refreshed goals and vision, and ways to reach corporations and other potential donors to keep it vital. Initially, the process was kick-started with help from Native-American owned consulting firm, Blue Stone Strategy Group.
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