The Casino Economy: Indian Gaming, Tribal Sovereignty, and Economic Independence for the Puyallup Tribe of Indians

Date of Award

Winter 2-14-2017

Author Requested Restriction

Open Access (no embargo, no restriction)

Work Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Interdisciplinary Studies (MA)


Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Danica Miller

Second Advisor

Michelle Montgomery


The Emerald Queen Casino is a landmark in Tacoma, Washington that was made possible by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, a federal law establishing the governing structure for Indian gaming and which subsequently provided the opportunity for substantial economic independence to emerge for American Indian tribes across the United States. Opening in 1996, the Emerald Queen Casino, owned and operated by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, is unique in Washington State in that it is located in an urban environment within the city limits of Tacoma. This unique geography has allowed the Emerald Queen to become one of the most prosperous Indian casinos in the Pacific Northwest. In this thesis I examine through factual data and autoethnography the positive and negative impacts of the Emerald Queen Casino on the Puyallup Tribe and the surrounding local community. Specifically, I focus on several of the benefits of the casino economy, including business and resource development, support of higher education, and creating opportunities for employment. I also focus on several of the detrimental effects of the casino economy, including complacency, drug abuse, and domestic issues. By exploring these positive and negative elements, we will begin to see how the Tribe has grown to become a vital component of the South Sound economy as well as having to contend with many longstanding and new social challenges in the Tribal community.