The Native American or tribal casinos have skyrocketed in numbers and volume in the last 20 years. The largest casino on the planet is a tribal-owned and tribal-operated casino.
WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, OK, is the grand-daddy of all casinos, and it’s owned by the Chickasaw Nation. They can sometimes get a bad rap, but Native American casinos aren’t all bad.
In fact, they may bring some tremendous and much-needed economic growth to the area. My point is not to knock the tribal casino industry. Still, I do want to shed some light on why some Native American casinos may not be a great bet, just as commercial casinos have their downsides, too.
From there, it’s yours to decide where you stand on the tribal casino debate.
Advantage Players Can’t Afford to Lose Their Go-To
Real money blackjack players face an uphill climb in some tribal casinos. Typically, the games come with a small ante for every hand.
This ante may only be a fraction of a dollar per hand, but it shifts the house edge substantially. You don’t win this ante back by winning the hand, it’s simply the price of admission.
What that means for the player is that every 10 hands of blackjack will cost you $5 on average. That’s not taking into account any losses you’ll incur over the same 10 hands.
The breakdown for your average player works out to approximately $50 per hour for a semi-full table. Catch an empty table, and this figure could triple.
What about card counters? They have found a way to flip the advantage on the casino. So, surely they can fleece the casino coffers and afford the ante.
Well, yes and no. It definitely reduces the edge when an advantage player is paying an ante for every hand. However, it can be a considerable risk for a card counter to start playing the tribal casinos. You see, more often than not, these casinos are spread out over broad areas.
This ban could impact you whether you’re a recreational card counter or a professional. It’s a downright devastating blow for any professional card counters.
When you look for advantage play opportunities at Native American casinos, carefully weigh the pros and cons, just as you would for a Las Vegas casino.
Tribal Casinos Fall Under a Different Jurisdiction
Tribal Casinos operate outside the jurisdiction of federal regulations. This may have several impacts on your gaming experience at Native American casinos.
For starters, the games are set up at the casino’s discretion. There’s no way to gauge precisely what payout percentages and payout schedules may look like in a tribal casino.
The problem here is that you’ll never honestly know the RTP on a slot machine you’re playing.
The casinos also have much more room on how they deal with players. Security encounters are an issue I hear about regularly, so I’m going to address that specifically a bit later.
If the casino decides to confiscate your money because they suspect that you’re card counting, you’ve got essentially zero recourse.
You shouldn’t walk into a tribal casino worried about the casino keeping your money. That’s not how they operate. Still, advantage gamblers should proceed with caution at any casino—commercialized or tribal. The casino won’t have you thrown in jail, but they’ll be sure to ruin your day.
Native American Casinos Have Yet to Embrace Sports Betting
Sports betting is one of the leading most lucrative gambling activities that you can enjoy. The top sports bettors on the planet have made hundreds of millions in their careers.
Obviously, those numbers are reserved for the truly elite punters that build a network of betting teams. Still, the casual gambler, also a dedicated sports fan, will often gravitate away from the slots and table games to the sportsbooks.
This may be tricky for gamblers at the tribal casinos. The Native American casinos have not embraced sports betting the same way Las Vegas sportsbooks have.
In many regions, sports betting hasn’t been legalized. Before it becomes legal, the states and tribes will need to make some concessions.
The most significant sticking point among the two sides centers around mobile betting. It’s clear that having mobile sports betting would bring in an entirely fresh crop of technology-focused gamblers.
However, in their push for strictly retail sports betting, the casinos will bring droves of brand new customers into the casino. By forcing sports bettors through the door, they can increase theirs overall dollars earned from sports bettors.
Sure, some new sports bettors will merely hang out in the sportsbook for the duration of their visit. Still, many more will succumb to the draw of the blackjack table or video poker.
Avid sports bettors booking their next casino trip will be better served looking at Las Vegas, for now.
Advantage Players May Get a Raw Deal
In fact, if you believe half of what you read online (which is far too high of a percentage), advantage gamblers may want to avoid tribal-operated casinos altogether.
There have been many of these accounts from across the US. One incident in Arizona prompted a rare lawsuit that put the individual casino employees at a liability.
Still, more often than not, these unfortunate encounters end with a player being stripped of their chips, detained for extended periods, then pushed out the door. It’s understood that you’re never to return.
Security May Be Allowed to Exceed Typical Authority
Las Vegas casinos hire private security that is tasked with observing and reporting to law enforcement. Native American casinos have their own police force.
That could potentially give security in Native American casinos far more leeway. Basically, casino security will have the full backing of law enforcement, mainly because they are the law enforcement.
Still, There Is Good That Comes With the Tribal Casinos
Having said all of that, without trying to paint the Native American casinos in a negative light, this brings us to the following: There are a ton of benefits that come from the tribal casinos.
This category of casinos creates a ton of jobs. Employment rates in areas with Native American casinos increase immediately.
In areas where Native American casinos open, the employment rate can go up by more than 25%. From dealers to food and beverage crews, the casinos have a ton of positions to fill.
The jobs also provide far better opportunities for locals than they may have. I met a dealer at Choctaw Casino in Durant, OK, many years ago.
Before she got her gig dealing poker at Choctaw, she worked at a Dairy Queen restaurant and made minimum wage. She’s now in operations for the casino and doing exceptionally well financially.
The casino even paid for her to get her college education. This is just one example of how this kind of development in the gambling industry changes people’s lives and communities for the better.
The Pros and Cons of Native Tribe Casinos
Native tribe casinos offer a gaming option for people across the US. Sure, they have their drawbacks, but so do the large casinos in Atlantic City or Las Vegas.
The number of jobs created by the tribal casinos is staggering, and I’m all for economic growth. Instead of focusing on why some Native American casinos may not be a great bet, focus on the positives. You’ll be able to enjoy hours of casino fun much closer to home.
And no matter where you go, try to avoid getting caught counting cards!