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What Is the Difference Between Indian Casinos and Commercial Resorts?

Casinos offer loads of fun for adults of all ages. As you frequent casinos, you may have noticed the U.S. supports two different types. You can find Indian casinos and commercial casinos across the United States.

What sets these two types of casinos apart, and do they have anything in common? Let’s explore Indian casinos vs. commercial casinos.

What Is an Indian Casino?

An Indian casino sits on tribal lands. These casinos are authorized by the National Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (NIGRA), enacted in 1988 to protect the interests of the tribes and provide regulation for an industry that, until that point, had been largely unregulated.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has declared the tribal lands where Indian casinos are located as sovereign. Oftentimes, the land is put into a trust. For a tribe to oversee a casino, one of two conditions must be in place:

  • The state where the potential casino land is located must allow gambling.
  • Tribes must reach an agreement with the governor on what games they can offer in a state that doesn’t allow gambling.

In the latter case, the two sides must agree on tax rates as well. Sometimes the agreement must be ratified by voters or the state legislature. The gambling may be considered a monopoly if there’s no other competition from within the state.

Within Indian casinos, you may find a lot of variation. For instance, house rules may differ for various games or video poker machines may be different at each venue. The differences underscore the importance of diversity and bringing different points of view into the decision-making process.

What Is a Commercial Casino?

Commercial casinos are run by private businesses. They are only located in states where gambling is legal. Commercial casinos are often situated on boats or elsewhere on the water because this is the only state-approved option for gambling.

In some states, gambling is only permitted in tourist areas, which may include beaches or mountain communities. Racetracks often include casinos as well.

Private companies or individuals own commercial casinos. They pay taxes on the revenue they generate, and they may share their after-tax profits among shareholders.

The Benefits of Indian Casinos

Indian casinos were established to assist the tribes. Casinos were seen as a way to offer employment to people living on tribal lands, where unemployment is traditionally high.

As time has passed, many Indian casinos have become a successful long-term economic venture, with clearer visions for establishing independent sources of revenue for the tribe. For instance, Washington state’s Tulalip tribes have incorporated a “retail city” into their plans, offering commercial retail spaces to businesses. Options include leasing land as well as office space. Adding a hotel, restaurant or spa space to a casino is another smart move.

The added dimension gives tribes another source of revenue to draw from. They diversify, which helps them in the long run because it can be risky to rely on just one income source, no matter how popular gambling is within the region.

Other tribes have commercialized the experience of running casinos by offering consultation services to private companies. Some tribes have even attempted to establish casinos overseas, in Asia or Europe.

The Benefits of Commercial Casinos

Commercial casinos stimulate economic growth within a state. They contribute to the tourism industry and raise the state’s profile within gambling circles. They can help revitalize run-down neighborhoods or serve as the final piece in an economic development package. Placing a casino can spur growth for nearby retailers by drawing new potential shoppers to fresh venues.

Other benefits of commercial casinos are similar to those of Indian casinos. Both offer needed jobs to the community and may drive up median wages in the area.

What Are the Differences Between Commercial and Indian Casinos?

You won’t be able to tell a lot of difference between Indian casinos and commercial casinos when you walk in to gamble. They both offer similar games. The slot machines work the same way, and they share a festive atmosphere of people who are excited to be doing something they love. But there are a few key differences.


The number one difference between these two types of casinos is location. Indian casinos sit on tribal lands while commercial casinos do not. Indian casinos are often quite large because of this. Commercial casinos are limited to a size that will fit on the commercial property they purchase or lease. Commercial casinos located on boats, for instance, have no chance at expansion, either.


The differences between Indian and commercial casinos manifest largely behind the scenes. NIGRA guides Indian casinos on how to use their profits. The money must flow back into tribal communities, encouraging economic development and self-sufficiency of tribal governments.

Overall, there are fewer Indian casinos than commercial ones. They do not generate as much money across the country as commercial casinos, but they have become real forces in the industry, sparking billions in annual revenue.


The tribes run most Indian casinos. However, some tribes enter into deals with an experienced casino company that knows how to optimize profits and keep the casino running smoothly.


Another significant difference between commercial and Indian casinos is branding. Many Indian casinos incorporate tribal imagery and use symbols that are important to their history in the games. Some people don’t recognize these symbols, but it is a good way to educate yourself about the Native American experience and history.


States don’t regulate the activities on Indian casinos if gambling is legal within the state. That’s a difference from commercial casinos, which can be regulated by the state.

Visit Our World-Class California Casino

Now that you understand more about the different types of casinos, it’s time to pay a visit to your favorite one! Tachi Palace Casino Resort is located in Lemoore, California, and we have a range of fun slot machines and table games for our guests to enjoy.

We are proud to be an Indian casino, and we employ many people in the Lemoore area, which gives the local economy a boost. Get in touch to learn more about our many amenities and how we go above and beyond for our guests.





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