Strategy & Marketing

“Self Reliance” – Native American Media Brilliance

Let’s talk a bit about the “Self-Reliance” campaign by Indian casinos across the country. If you’re from a state that doesn’t have them, then you won’t understand. But here in California, we’re inundated with TV commercials that don’t promote casinos or gambling – they promote Native American “self-reliance.” I’m all for self-reliance, and I’m all for Native Americans. But as a media strategist, I have to hand it to the creative person who came up with the idea of cloaking gambling in a positive moral attribute. You’re not losing money, your helping an entire race become self-reliant. From a marketing perspective, that’s genius. Moral hooey perhaps, but genius.

The statistics are pretty compelling that gambling isn’t the rosy picture the media and business says it is. In fact, numerous sources testify that it’s an addiction and it’s pretty devastating. Obviously, the casinos don’t agree, which is why they hide behind the “self-reliance” campaign. Besides, if gambling was such a good thing, why would they need self-reliance? Why wouldn’t they just spend millions talking about how great it is to lose your money?

It’s called “perception.” And hiding behind a shot of a poor Native American kid is the best way they can think of to keep the slot machines working…


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  1. Sounds like a bit of an oxymoron doesn't it?

    I have not seen that advertising, as I live almost as far away from CA as you can get and still be in the US! 

    When I first read your headline I was expecting to hear about a request for more land, so that they could live off the land, and not rely on outside influence!  But in reality it is the OPPOSITE?  Come visit our land, so that we can live off of your money and in doing so achieve "Self – Reliance".

    Now, I can understand how our (anyone that is not a Native American) ancestors did encroach on their land, and were not considerate in the least, and were more accurately hostile to the natives.  I also can see that Native Americans were wronged like so many nations have been wronged throughout history.  So please don't read my comments as racist or an attack.  But I have to agree that is a very interesting manner of campaigning!!!

    What's next?  A TV show requesting donations and in return they will do a rain-dance for your drought – stricken part of the country?  <wink>

  2. It was interesting to see, down the street, in the Biblebelt of Tulsa, what was a Native American industrial building, used for Bingo, has turned into a multi-million dollar casino that has a packed parking lot everyday and is about to build a new mall size complex.  I know several local businesses that believe their income has suffered because of it and the other large casino in the area.  There slogan is "we know what you want".

  3. Self-reliant? while relying on our finances? Interesting thought…

    As soon as they stop taking the huge federal grants (all while not paying a penny of federal & state tax), then I'll start considering them somewhat self-reliant.
    I'm not sure that I'm aware of any culture that has not fallen into dispare while being given everything for nothing (ie. free handouts). Look at the rampant alcoholism and unenployment in the Native American communities.
    I did not grow up around Native Americans, but my college was right around the corner from the capitol of the Cherokee Nation. I studied them my first year of college. By no means to I consider myself overly knowledgable about Native Americans, but I have quite a bit of knowledge when it comes to community/culture development.
  4. "Rain-dance" huh? well you dont get anymore racist than that. Its kinda funny because I love hearing ignorant peoples version of what a "rain-dance" is. You probably wont ever in your life tell that to a real rez native in person will you…..hmmm thats what I thought too.

  5. Well I sincerely apologize that what I said was offensive to you and anyone else that might find it that way. It was intended to be a satirical shot at the mega-ministries that are asking for donations and in return they are sending you a trinket that they have prayed over, annointed with holy water, or whatever. I am obviously ignorant to how you feel about it since even now, with it pointed out to me, I don’t find the offense if the satire is read correctly. Would it not be a similar action… In other words, I find it questionable if not completely offensive that a tv evangelist would “sell” a prayer, a blessed handkerchief or “holy water” for a donation of a certain size. I was drawing a parallel to that, which would mean that I was assuming that a Native American would also find a similar practice to be objectionable. The satire also applies to the progression that tv evangelists did not just start out with the stark obvious but that they worked their way to that by at first requesting support for their ministry. Even if this post does not help explain that my intentions were not racist, I hope that you would accept the apology.

  6. Island Girl,

    It appears you don't like gambling. That's fine.  You say that it was once illegal.  Guess what, it is legal and flourishing…so deal with it.  Then you basically say it is a monopoly, suggesting that makes it an entitlement. First off, that's not the model in all states. But here in California, voters set the system up this way. Democracy at work, Island Girl. Indians took their case to the voters, who overwhelmingly voted to make a deal with the tribes — we'll give you exclusive rights to gaming in exchange for billions of dollars per year. Then the tribes worked out their agreements with the Governor, democratically-elected lawmakers and federal officials. Played strictly by the rules, Island Girl. That was a political and business deal that was created by a fair, legal and democratic system. I just think you don't like it when Indians play by the rules and win.

    I bet you liked it better when they were poor and shoved into the rocks.

    But for the rest of you who might not have an axe to grind with Indians, a little history from California:

    In November of 1998, California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 5 which allowed California Indian tribes to continue gaming on their own land. This ended a six-year struggle by California tribes to operate gaming permited under a 1988 federal law. But due to a legal technicality, Nevada casino interests were able to get the measure overturned on constitutional grounds.
    However, on March 7, 2000, voters returned to the ballot boxes and showed their unwavering support for Native Americans. On that date, Propositon 1A, an amendment to the California State Constitution in support of tribal governmental gaming, passed with a 65% state-wide approval rate.

    State governments use their taxes to provide for the general welfare of its citizens. Likewise, tribal governments use their revenues from gaming for the same purpose. Tribal gaming profits provide funding for education, housing and health care for Indian people. On reservations where there is gaming, unemployment has all but disappeared. Tribal gaming has taken Indians off welfare and put them on the road to self-determination. Tribes also realize that the success of gaming is not an end in itself. Rather, it is a bridge to help regain what was once theirs long ago – true self-respect, self-determination and economic self-sufficiency. Many tribes are looking beyond gaming and diversifying their economic base with other businesses. The skills and resources tribes are amassing in gaming will help assure their future and their children’s future. The following are some facts about self-reliance and Indian gaming that you may find interesting. At little dated, but still makes the point:

    In San Diego, Indian Gaming:

    • is the second largest employer in San Diego.
    • created over 7,500 new jobs (for Indians and non-Indians).
    • generates over $80 million in annual payroll (and more than $15 million in state and federal payroll taxes).
    • purchases more than $90 million in goods and services from local businesses.
    • gives over $5 million to community/charitable organizations each year.

    In California, Indian Gaming:

    • created more than 50,000 new jobs (80% of which are non-Indian).
    • generates more than $120 million in state and local taxes.
    • generates more than $280 million is in taxable expenditures by gaming patrons at neighboring, non-gaming businesses each year.
    • pays to the State of California a fee averaging 10% of gross revenues.
    • supports an estimated 35,000 additional jobs in California through subsequent rounds of spending by employees, vendors, construction firms, tribal governments and other affected businesses.
    • unemployment rate has dropped more than 50% on reservations with gaming.
    • welfare has been cut by more than 70% on reservations with gaming…and in some instances, welfare has been eliminated completely.
    • Association for Forest Development and Conservation payments have been reduced by more than $50 million.

    Maintaining The Highest Standards Of Quality And Integrity…

    • Unprecedented levels of regulation
    • Tribal regulators and commi
    • State Gaming Department
    • State Gaming Department
    • Additional federal regulation:
    • Department Of Justice
    • Federal Bureau Of Investigation
    • Internal Revenue Service
    • Bureau Of Indian Affairs
    • Department Of The Interior
  7. Passing of Proposition 1A means there will now be more regulation on the part of the state…All additional regulatory costs will be paid for by the tribes.
  8. Non-Indian commercial gaming (which makes up 90% of the gaming in the United States) is regulated on only one level.
  9. Proposition 1A limits the number of casinos a tribe may operate (two) as well as the number of slot machines that are permitted in a casino (no more than 2,000).
  10. The compacts signed with the Governor of California in conjuction with Proposition 1A will be good for 20 years. Changes may be made after three years, but must be agreed to by both state and tribal governments and must also be approved by the federal government.

  11. I have to admit, we'd better leave this here with Roger, who we all agree just doesn't seem to get it.  First – he continues to close off healthy discussion by pulling the race card on everyone who doesn't agree with him.  For the upteeth time Roger, it's not about race, it's about media.  It's about using the media to put a false front on an issue.  In this case it's advertising that uses "self-reliance" to promote gambling.  Illegal or legal doesn't matter.  Voters approved it – doesn't matter.  Its about the media.  That's what this blog is about.  So the discussion could be about a million different issues, but this one is about media.  Thanks for your input Roger, but I say let's agree to disagree and call it a day.

  12. Assuming all this is true, legality is not the same as morality.

    The original post simply noted an opinion, which is held by many Christians as to the morality of gambling while still noting that the promotional campaign being used to equate the profits from the casinos as equating to being self-sufficient.

    The reference in that regard was positive.  Well done ad campaign.

    Believe it or not, it's possible to be opposed to gambling on moral grounds without being anti-Indian.

    You might try backing off a bit and looking at it more objectively and less emotionally.

    Just my opinion though.

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