Casinos haven’t cured tribal poverty


Despite money and social services from tribal casinos, Native American poverty rates remain disturbingly high in Oregon.

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Despite money and social services from tribal casinos, Native American poverty rates remain disturbingly high in Oregon.

All nine Oregon tribes earn money from casinos but continue to struggle with poverty. Even the state’s most powerful and affluent tribe, the Grand Ronde, has more than half of its members earning less than 80 percent of the state’s median income.

The [Grand Ronde] tribe covers tuition at any college or trade school in the nation, including grad school. Cradle-to-grave health care is paid for all members, no matter where they live. There’s affordable housing on the reservation. And each member receives cash payments of about $4,000 in the mail each year, courtesy of the casino.

When Spirit Mountain opened in 1995, 55 percent of Grand Ronde tribal members earned below 80 percent of the median Oregon income, according to the tribe’s own figures. Five years later, the tribe switched to measuring by household, but the ratio was the same—55 percent. Today, hundreds of millions of dollars later, that statistic remains exactly the same—55 percent.

Grand Ronde households in the deepest poverty also remain stuck at rock bottom. Ten years ago, 15 percent of tribal households were severely impoverished, earning less than 30 percent of the median income. Today that number is even worse—17 percent.

Read more at Willamette Week.

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