The chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission on Tuesday warned tribal leaders against becoming too dependent on casino-based economies.
"That casino may not be around forever," said Montie Deer, a former Sedgwick County District Court judge chosen by President Clinton to oversee Indian gaming.
"As states become desperate for revenue, many are likely to turn to expanded forms of gambling. That's sure to hurt the tribal casinos," he said, noting that few tribal casinos are near big cities.
A sizable percentage of the casinos' current customers, he said, will keep their business closer to home if given the chance.
Deer, who now lives and works in Washington, D.C., addressed about 50 tribal leaders and Haskell Indian Nations University officials at a conference on the future of Indian gaming. The conference was at the Lawrence Holidome and the university campus.
To diversify their economies, tribal leaders were urged by Deer to commit a portion of their gaming revenues to state-of-the-art schools and college scholarships.
"We need to make sure this prosperity lasts," he said.
Deer said 309 gaming facilities run by 196 tribes generated $10.6 billion last year.
Haskell is expected to play a key role in helping American Indian communities take advantage of the opportunities that accompany gaming.
Ernie Stevens Jr., chairman of the National Indian Gaming Assn., said he hoped to work with Haskell to create a curriculum aimed at training students for management positions in the gaming industry.
"Let's make Haskell the No. 1 source of training for the gaming industry," he said.
Stevens, a former basketball standout for Haskell, graduated from the university in 1983.
Haskell President Karen Swisher said the proposal is under consideration.
"Our first responsibility is to the programs we have in place right now," she said. "But this is a possibility. It's something we're looking at."
Conference participants toured Haskell on Tuesday afternoon. An evening banquet featured keynote speaker Phil Martin, tribal chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
The conference continues today with a panel discussion on Haskell's role in Indian gaming.