The Tulalips: A Case Study in Tribal Gaming in Washington

Prior to the advent of tribal gaming, the Tulalip Tribes were in trouble. The Tulalips are a conglomeration of Western Washington Native American Tribes whose land borders Interstate 5 to the east, Puget Sound to the west, 146th St. to the north and the Snohomish River to the south for a total of 22,000 acres (North). They had a 60% unemployment rate amongst their people, and the tribal entities’ entire yearly income was $45,000 per year (North). Their primary source of income was leasing tribal land. There was really very little opportunity for tribal members within their lands for anything other than logging and seasonal fishing (North), until tribal gaming came along in the early 1990s and changed the fortune of this confederation of tribes.

In 1983, the Tulalip Tribes opened a Bingo Parlor on their land across Interstate 5 from Marysville, WA (North). They saved their earnings from that endeavor for nearly a decade until 1992, when they were able to open their own casino complete with slot machines and card tables. The casino did very well for boosting the tribes’ income, and in May of 2004 the new Tulalip Casino opened for business. It boasts 2000 slot machines, 49 card tables, 3 restaurants, a cabaret and 3 free standing bars. This glitzy Vegas style casino has lifted the confederation out of abject poverty and into and entirely new era for their people.

The success of tribal gaming for the Tulalips is evident throughout the community. In 2002 the Tulalip Tribes had become the 6th-largest private employer in Snohomish County (Snohomish), and that figure is expected to rise as the tribes explore new business ventures. In the next 3 to 5 years, the tribes are expected to supply the region with 10,000 jobs, which will move it up to the 2nd-largest private employer in the county, next to Boeing (North). The tribe is now able to produce 75% of its revenue from gambling alone, whereas in the late 80s they relied on federal grants for 95% of their funding (North). The tribes now have the necessary income to help fund higher education for any member who wishes to pursue a college degree, and they fund a program in their schools to teach their native language, Lushootseed (North). Learning their native language as children is especially important to elders born just a generation ago who did not have this opportunity.

The Tulalips are an excellent case study for how gambling can positively effect a community. The added revenues from the casino have empowered this once poverty stricken community to open doors for their people once thought to be out of reach. Since the opening of the new Tulalip Casino in 2003, an amphitheater has opened on the site which has already been host to a Trisha Yearwood concert, in addition to a luxury outlet mall. There are already plans underway to expand the existing gaming floor, in addition to plans�¯�¿�½for a hotel which will make the Tulalip Casino a true destination resort. Tribal gaming has opened the doors to self-sufficiency for these and many other tribes around the state of Washington, and with no sign of slowing down, it has guaranteed them a lasting sustainability for their people.�¯�¿�½


North, Scott and Eric Stevick. Casino A Symbol of Financial Might. June 1, 2003. Everett Herald. Dec 28, 2005.�¯�¿�½

Snohomish County Economic Development Council. Snohomish County’s Largest Employers. Dec 1, 2002. Snohomish County Business Journal. Dec. 28, 2005. <>

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