October 26, 2007

Sandia should pay jackpot

How do you say 'PR' in the Tiwa Language?A patron at the Sandia Resort and Casino was playing a slot machine when it indicated a $1.6 million jackpot, according to ABC News (hat tip: Drudge). But the lucky gambler, Gary Hoffman, hit hard luck when it came to getting the Indian reservation casino to pay off. No dice, as it were. The casino claims that it was a computer malfunction on the electronic-laden one armed bandit.

He has a poor chance of obtaining legal redress. ABC News writes:

Native American tribes, as independent nations, have their own court systems and can be sued in state courts only under limited circumstances. New Mexico law generally does not allow tribes to be sued in a state court over a contract dispute, Kleiman said.
The Tiwa-speaking Sandia Pueblo tribe and all the other casino-owning tribes certainly do not want to give up the extraterritorial advantages they get by exemption from various laws and regulations, so they may be reluctant to submit this kind of case to American courts.

They need to take a hard look at the PR cost to them of not paying off. If the trade association split the cost, it would be trivial. They might want to throw in a few million more to spend on R&D to make sure their slot machines never do this again.
Comment:  I'm not sure if the tribe should pay the whole jackpot, but a generous consolation prize might be a good idea. Supposedly they gave Hoffman "about $385 and a few free meals at the casino." I'm thinking more like a quarter of the jackpot, or $400,000.

More generally, gaming tribes should be thinking constantly about how to garner good publicity. They get enough bad publicity as it is.

These tribes do give generously to local charities, but their efforts don't affect voters in urban areas or state capitols. In other words, the people who will decide the important policy issues the tribes wish to implement.

Therefore, gaming tribes should be building downtown museums, sponsoring sports teams, developing clothing and food products, starting record labels, financing movies (and comic books), etc....as a few of them are starting to do. In other words, whatever it takes to bring their cultural values and perspective into the mainstream. The way to generate a positive opinion in the popular culture is to participate in the popular culture.

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