Railroads as Tentacles of Gambling

It is an undisputed truth that the railroads brought both good and bad to American cities and towns; just as there is good and bad in all forms of progress. The spread of wealth, industry and jobs was a good thing for many, but then the attraction to big cities by nefarious and criminal elements has produced vice in these places. The railroads also spread the tentacles of gambling across the land and especially into the Wild West. Relatively unpoliced, these frontier towns were dens of inequity with prostitution combined with the sale of alcohol and gambling creating an industry of adult entertainment firmly entrenched. It made some very rich and many more others mighty poor. Bookies would even offer odds on what time the trains would arrive.

More recently, casinos on American Indian reservations have seen billions of dollars generated by these gaming operations, owned and operated by American Indians. The industry grew out of a taxation victory by an Indian couple, in the US Supreme Court in the nineteen seventies, over property taxes imposed by the Minnesota State Government. The court found that the states had no right to impose taxation or regulate Indian activities on Indian reservations. This led to the construction of high stakes bingo halls by the Seminole Tribe of Florida and despite the efforts of County police and officials to close the operation down; the tribe was successful in federal court. In 2011 two hundred and forty Native American tribes were running four hundred and sixty gaming operations worth some twenty seven billion dollars annually.

There are conflicting reports on whether this mega gambling Native American industry (Indian casinos generate more income than Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos combined) is providing tribal Indians on reservations with improved standards of living or not. There are still many Indians living in trailer homes and cramped apartments in many tribal areas. It may not be paying off big time for all Indians but the industry is a major employer of Native Americans. There are huge facilities with hundreds of slot machines and it is reported that Indians receive $4 out of every $10 waged by Americans at these gaming facilities.

Gambling is seen by many to be a wicked God forsaken industry, a scourge of the nation which needs to be controlled and, even, curtailed. Others have a more laissez faire attitude to its existence and see it as a part of every grown up culture. The trains bring in punters to the casinos and the slot machines ring out with their distinctive song. Money makes the world go around, so they say.