Karla Y. Phelps, “The Casino, the Coushatta, and the Community: Road to Riches or Road to Ruin?” Touchstone, vol. XIX (2000), 23-38.
This article by Karla Phelps examines the socioeconomic and political impact the Grand Casino Coushatta has had on the Coushatta reservation and the surrounding community in Allen Parish. Phelps discusses the condition of the reservations and Allen Parish before and after the opening of the gambling establishment.
Historically, Allen Parish was an agricultural community, having 357 farms in 1992. Some of the economic problems in Allen Parish were a low per capita income and low sales tax revenues. Their infrastructure was in poor condition and they had no revenues to repair the infrastructure. Allen Parish had unemployment rates of 14.2% in 1994; and the Coushatta had a 50% unemployment rate, according to the 1990 Census. The high unemployment rates necessarily caused welfare dependency among the Coushattas and people in Allen Parish.
This was the state of the Coushatta tribe and Allen Parish when a Nebraska developer negotiated with the Coushattas to open the casino. After the Tribal-State Compact for the Conduct of Class III Gaming was approved by the Coushatta Tribal Council and the State of Louisiana, Grand Casinos purchased land, donated it to the Coushattas, and began lobbying the U. S. Government to place this additional land in trust for the Coushatta tribe. After this was completed, construction began on the Grand Coushatta Casino in 1993. Under the Tribal-State Compact, the Coushatta give the State of Louisiana a percentage of the net profits, which is currently six percent.
The Casino has provided an economic boost to Allen Parish. For example, unemployment dropped from 14.2% in 1994 to 5% in 1998. Also sales tax revenues have increased by 70 percent since the opening of the Grand Casinos Coushatta. Property values surrounding the Casino have increased substantially. The Casino has also drawn more businesses to the area, such as hotels and restaurants. The Casino has spurred population growth in Allen Parish as many people relocate there to take advantage of new job opportunities.
The Coushatta tribe receives 60 percent of the revenue from the Casino, which in the first year of operation in 1995 was estimated at over $20 million a month. Their increasing wealth has allowed the Coushattas to improve their reservation in a variety of ways and invest in other business opportunities, such as a recreational resort, a hotel, and a golf course.
The Coushatta reservation now has a Multi-Purpose Complex, which has a game room, weight room, gymnasium, spa, and many other amenities. The Coushattas also built a Medical Center to provide medical services to the tribal members, and built new housing units and repaired existing ones. The enrolled members of the Coushatta tribe receive a per capita payment from the Casino’s profits for their own benefit; minors’ share of the payments are held in trust until they come of age.
The cooperation between Allen Parish and the Coushatta Tribe in the development of the casino has been beneficial to all parties concerned. Allen Parish is now a popular tourist attraction, which continues to grow in size and population. The casino has also brought economic prosperity and political power to the Coushatta Nation.
Mary Arnold graduated from University of Houston-Clear Lake with a degree in literature and history.
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