Fresno State political science professor publishes book on Indian gaming

Professor Hansen shows off his newly published book in his office.
Hansen collaborated with several other Fresno State professors for
the creation of his book.
Esteban Cortez / The Collegian

On Sept. 14, 2011, a panel discussion was held at Fresno State’s Henry Madden Library.  The panel was held to discuss a book, “The New Politics of Indian Gambling.”

The book was written by three Fresno State political science teachers, Dr. Kenneth Hansen, Associate Prof. Jeff Cummins and Dr. Thomas Holyoke.

Allison Cowgill, a librarian who helps with the political science department, arranged the discussion. She also attended the discussion.The topic held interest for Cowgill as well.  She had written a book of her own, “Casino Gaming: A Research Guide.”

Hansen’s own heritage drove him to write the book, although he was adopted, and unsure of his exact heritage.  But nonetheless, he felt compelled to tell of this particular plight.   Hansen explained that doing a topic that is personal is typically frowned upon.  It is often referred to as “mesearch.”

Each of the three professors contributed to the book.  Cummins, who worked for the California legislature in the past, worked on the chapter that dealt with lobbying strategies, campaign contributions and how they affected Indian gaming in California.

Cummins explained that the Indian tribes in California had better luck lobbying for their cause than their New York counterparts.  This was due in part that Indian casinos in California had already been in operation.  Thus the tribes were able to use casino profits to fund their cause.

Holyoke focused on Indian gaming in New York.  In Chapter 9 of the book,  Holyoke goes into a lot of detail of the obstacles Indian tribes faced in building their casinos.

In New York, gambling was forbidden.  There was a great deal from the religious community who saw gambling as a “sin.”

People were also worried about the impact a casino would bring.  Some people were worried that if an Indian casino was built, more crime would follow.  The people were also afraid that a certain “bad element” would appear.

One of the most difficult obstacles came from the tribes themselves.  Tribes began to fight amongst each other.  If a tribe got a legislation measure to pass that would allow them to allow slot machines at their casino, it would hurt the other tribes financially.

The competing tribe would do everything they could to make sure that tribe did not get the measure passed.

Holyoke got the information he needed for his research, but he did have some difficulty.  He explained that there was a difference between “what you can get.” and “what do you want?”

According to the authors of the book, it’s hard to say whether or not casinos hurt or help the Indian tribes.  They do help by providing a source of income for the tribes.  A lot of tribes have spent countless years in poverty.  The casinos would finally allow them to get out of poverty.  The money generated by the casinos could provide for elder care and health care.

On the other hand, the casinos have hurt the tribes.  Some tribes, driven by greed, have actually kicked out some of their own members.  This is referred to as “disenrollment.”

The U.S. government cannot interfere in this matter.  The tribes are a “sovereign nation.”  This means that all matters must be settled within the tribes.

Hansen hopes that by reading his book, people will have a different outlook of the Indian people.  He wants them to be seen as normal people, not the way they are commonly misportrayed.

The Indians, in order to achieve their goals of acquiring their casinos had to play by a set of rules. Hansen feels the Indians should not be faulted by following a set of rules that may be seen as corrupt.

“They should be commended for that, not punished.” Hansen said.

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