Never Losing Sight of the Role of Indian Gaming

From battle of the bras to growing food for local schools
Indian gaming organizations are recognized for their commitment to their communities and employees

By Christine Faria

It’s no secret.

From L to R, Kelley Bailey, Adrienne Horton, Michelle Richens, Stacie Razkowic, Pennie Ruchman and Stephen Wherry. All are FireKeepers Team Members

Anti-Indian gaming sentiment and prejudice still exist.  For a number of reasons, Tribal gaming organizations are seldom recognized for their history of uncommon generosity and support they provide to non-Native and Native organizations and communities.

And in today’s political climate, being reminded of acts of inclusiveness and altruism, can’t be a bad thing, right?

In an effort to share the untold stories of positive relationships between tribal entities and the regions in which they operate, Raving Consulting created a recognition program in 2015 to raise awareness and recognize programs that highlight the hundreds of acts of giving by Tribal communities.

On February 1, fifteen organizations were honored at the Tribal Spirit of Giving Awards: Recognizing Organizations That Give Back to Their Communities, Employees and Customers during Raving’s 19th Indian Gaming National Marketing Conference, at Choctaw Casino Resort, Durant, OK. The event reached an historic attendance of over 300 gaming executives and suppliers.

Three breast cancer awareness and prevention campaigns were submitted by three different organizations and in total, raised over $500K for breast cancer organizations. As impressive as these numbers are, these awards are not judged by money raised.  They are judged by the overall impact and participation level – thousands of employee and community hours were donated.

Christine Todd, Relations/ HDS Program Manager for Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino Resort submitted their first place entry. During their Breast Cancer Awareness month, their numerous activities included a Bra Pong event, a Pink Hair Challenge and Ak-Chin’s infamous Battle of the Bras. However, the most important result? Christine shared, “Out of all of these efforts, it comes down to one thing, saving women from this disease. One of our employees took advantage of our free mammogram screenings for employees and that free mammogram saved her life.”

Steve Neely and Ciro Rivera, Casino Del Sol Resort

The variety of entries focused on many areas of need. FireKeepers Casino Hotel in Michigan was recognized for its nonprofit/hands-on project named the “Fire Hub” that will blend a restaurant with large gardens to grow food for local schools and a food pantry to help those less fortunate.  Kalispel Tribe of Indians – Northern Quest Resort & Casino in Washington submitted an impressive entry that was about funding a top care facility dedicated to treating and prolonging the lives of those diagnosed with heart disease.

Another 1st place entry was submitted by the Casino Del Sol Resort in the Employee Category. Each day for four days, from Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday, Casino Del Sol closes all casino and Tribal operations. This closure is so that all employees that participate in the Pascua Yaqui Lenten and Easter ceremonies get the time off work in order to complete their culturally significant tasks for their community.

Pictures and information on all the entries can be found at

Organizations from across the country participated in this contest:

Participants of the Tribal Spirit of Giving Awards, Asa Vanzile and Anthony Sandoval of Prairie Band Casino & Resort

  • 7 Cedars Casino & Resort Properties
  • Blue Lake Casino & Hotel
  • Casino Del Sol
  • Cherokee Nation Businesses
  • Choctaw Casinos
  • Elwha River Casino
  • FireKeepers Casino Hotel
  • Fortune Bay Resort Casino
  • Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino
  • Indigo Sky Casino
  • Kalispel Tribe of Indians – Northern Quest Resort & Casino
  • Lucky Eagle Casino & Hotel
  • Mazatzal Hotel & Casino
  • Prairie Band Casino & Resort
  • Pueblo of Pojoaque

At the Awards Luncheon, during Raving’s 19th Indian Gaming National Marketing Conference, the following winners were presented with a piece of hand-crafted, traditional Choctaw pottery created by Tribal member Edmun Perkins.

Also on stage was NB3F President and CEO, Justin Kii Huenemann who shared:

“Indian gaming was created to help our people, our tribes.  The Tribal Spirit of Giving Awards reflects this commitment, and the role gaming properties have to give back and support their tribes, employees and communities.  It is important that we never lose site of this value and responsibility.  It was great to see this in action through the honorees at the annual Tribal Spirit of Giving Awards.”

Top honors were awarded to:

Community Category:

1st Place – Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, Harrah’s HEROs – Breast Cancer Awareness Month and CODEGreen
2nd Place – FireKeepers Casino Hotel, the Fire Hub
3rd Place – Choctaw Casinos, Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign

Employee Category:

1st Place – Casino Del Sol Resort, Casino Del Sol Cultural Program
2nd Place – FireKeepers Casino Hotel, Winning with WEEA

Dennis Conrad, President, Raving Consulting said at the event, “Every single entry is a winner because every single entry represents a group or a person in need getting critical assistance. What we see submitted, is just one tiny drop in the bucket of good works that Tribal organizations do for their constituencies. It’s time that the general public understands the wealth of that giving from Tribal organizations who silently give so much.”

The Tribal Spirit of Giving Awards is one of many fundraisers that the organizer, Raving Consulting Company, does throughout the year for the Notah Begay III Foundation (NB3F), which does critical work in addressing obesity and type 2 diabetes among Native American youth.

For more information on the submitting to this year’s Tribal Spirit of Giving Awards or Raving’s 20th Indian Gaming National Marketing Conference, please contact Christine Faria at or call 775-329-7864.

This article was originally published by Casino Journal.

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