The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act legalized tribal gaming operations in 1988.

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Despite the fact that the state of Washington has no commercial casinos, gaming is big business here.

According to the Washington State Gambling Commission, tribal casinos netted nearly $1.48 billion in fiscal year 2008, while card rooms netted about $278 million. (Net receipts are the amount wagered minus the amount paid out as prizes.)

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act legalized tribal gaming operations in 1988. Many tribes have viewed gaming as an opportunity to further economic development, according to the American Gaming Association, the national trade association for the commercial casino segment of the gaming entertainment industry.

Modern Native American gaming operations are owned and, in some cases, operated by sovereign tribes. Many contract with established commercial casino companies to operate the tribal gaming operations.

Gaming vs. gambling

While some people assume the word “gaming” was created as a way to reinvent the casino industry, history tells a different story. Gaming — defined as the action or habit of playing games of chance for stakes — dates back to 1510, predating use of the word “gambling” by 265 years.

That word and its various forms were considered slang when they came into use in the 18th century, implying that the activity involved unduly high stakes. “Gamble” was essentially considered a term of reproach, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, and would be used only by those who “condemn playing for money altogether.”

In 1891, even the Anti-Gambling Association referred to the activity as gaming in a publication. Casinos in Nevada have been referred to as part of the gaming industry ever since they were legalized there in 1931.

As opposed to the business term “gaming,” the word “gambling” is now commonly used to refer to the actual activity. A 1987 reference dictionary uses the two terms interchangeably, defining gaming as “the playing of games of chance for stakes; gambling.”