March 05, 2008

SCALPED casino vs. real casino

A look at the SCALPED comic book's portrayal of an Indian casino vs. the actual casino in the same location.

Since the Prairie Rose reservation in SCALPED is really Pine Ridge, this is the casino the fictional Crazy Horse Casino must emulate:

Expansion creates new Prairie Wind CasinoPrairie Wind Casino sits on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the middle of the prairie with no communities within sight--just a few scattered houses, a view of the Badlands, some range cattle and wild game. Most of the time, however, there is a lot of wind--hence the name.

It is not one of those megacasinos where the lights flash and traffic flows 24 hours a day, nor is it where the big entertainment tours stop, but it has an atmosphere that attracts people from the local area, mostly ranchers and tribal members. In season, tourists are routed to the casino.
A bit of history:The Prairie Wind Casino got its start in 1994 with three mobile units that housed 75 slot machines. Next came a tent-like structure that was cramped with 250 slot machines and a small restaurant; offices had to be housed in the original mobile units.

After nearly two years of construction fraught with delays and controversy, the move to the new casino took place in March of this year and the hotel opened in June. Construction of the new casino cost $12 million and the hotel added an additional $4.8 million. Most of the funds came from a loan through the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in Minnesota.
A few facts: The new casino was built to hold 500 slot machines, but at present the casino still has only 250. That's the maximum number the state will allow any tribal casino under the current compacts. None of the tribally owned casinos in South Dakota have been given any indication that additional gaming devices will be increased.

From the carpeting to the decorative wall treatments, the casino exudes a welcoming atmosphere; and many people are able to carry on conversations while sipping a cup of coffee or a soft drink in comfortable chairs situated on the edge of the gaming floor. (Prairie Wind Casino is alcohol-free.)

The casino revenue is small compared to many other casinos, and any profit margin reflects the lower revenue income. Any extra revenue is used mostly to supplement tribal program funding, for health, education and environmental programs. The major benefit from the casino is that more people are employed in one of the areas of the country that is classified as one of the poorest counties in the nation. Those jobs at Prairie Wind make it one of the top employers on the reservation, in company with the tribal government, the IHS and OLC.
Comment:  This casino is mentioned in Frontline USA's report on Indians. That inspired me to do a little research. If writer Jason Aaron did any research into Indian gaming, he must've ignored what he found.

As you can see, Prairie Wind is totally unlike the fictional casino. It's a glitzy megacasino, with waitresses and showgirls in skimpy "chiefette" costumes and riches pouring into the corrupt government's coffers. The reality is far different.

This is a good example of how SCALPED stereotypes Indians. It imagines the worst-possible Indian gaming scenario, then pretends it's real. Readers who don't know anything about the subject will assume SCALPED's version is the norm.

Don't bother arguing that "it's only a comic book." This is where people learn about Indians: from the media. It's their primary source of information. If comics (and TV shows, and movies) all portray Indians getting rich from megacasinos, that's what people will believe.

To recap:

Actual casino:  in existence since 1994, small-time, helps tribe.

SCALPED casino:  started 2007, Las Vegas-style, enriches tribal leaders.

A discordant note

One interesting statistic from Frontline USA is that 70% of the customers at the Prairie Wind casino are Indians. The idea of Indian gaming is to take money from outside the tribe to help the tribe. Not to take money from within the tribe so a tribal bureaucracy can pay it back to the tribe.

If I were the tribe, I'd think about doing something about this. Limit the amount Indians can lose per day, month, or year. Give them some sort of pass for free or low-cost play.

Below:  Stereotype vs. reality.

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