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Casino Lobbying Scam Saw Native American Tribes Lose Millions

Jack Abramoff in the dock

People enjoy a bit of gambling here and there.

However, addiction to gambling remains a serious issue that hugely affects people's lives.

Gambling is now a big money industry and on the business side of things, things can get a bit out of control.

People like money and some like it far too much, so they decide to step over the lines, break a few laws and earn themselves millions - and usually a spell in prison.


Just as Jack Abramoff did in a 2006 casino lobbying incident where he ripped off Native American casino owners .

The Background

In 2006, casinos were not allowed to operate in most US states.

At the time, the only states which had casinos were Nevada, New Jersey, Illinois, Louisiana, and Michigan - A relatively small number, compared to today.

However, Native Americans were allowed to open casinos in their own territories.

In 1979,, the Seminole tribe was the first to open a casino.

Very soon, other tribes followed, as they realized that it was a very profitable business.

Since most of the tribes’ territories were close to larger cities, people only had to travel a short while to get to the casinos.

They were also a tourist attraction.

But, Native Americans did not always have the success they wanted with opening casinos.

What was the scandal?

Jack Abramoff had a lobbying team and he had a lot of experience with influencing people.

Members of the Choctaw tribe had contacted Abramoff, having failed at their own lobbying attempts, with a goal related to income tax.

He gained the trust of various tribes who all had plans to open casinos.

A plan was made in early 2001, with an accomplice Michael Scanlon, which they called it “gimme five”.

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The plan was to build Scanlon’s firms to have at least $3 million in revenue and to have them bought at triple the price.

Not only this, derogatory terms were used when referring to Native Americans, often calling them "monkeys" and "idiots" in emails sent to his partners.

Abramoff and his partners scammed around $85 million out of their Native American clients.

The Trial and Sentence

Abramoff was put on trial in 2006.

He admitted conspiracy, tax evasion, and fraud.

He and Scanlon had to repay $25 million to the tribes they scammed.

Abramoff himself was sentenced to a five-year sentence in prison in 2008

He got out in 2011 and started working as a lobbyist again.

Scanlon was jailed for 20 months and ordered to repay more than $20 million to the victims.

He then described his previous work as legalized bribing, which is still current to an extent.

Lobbying is a common practice in the US, particularly between businesses and politicians.

It is generally frowned upon as the line between lobbying and breaking several laws is extremely thin.

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