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Sycuan Institute at SDSU creating improved business environment, better gaming policy

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In 2005, the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation endowed the Sycuan Institute on Tribal Gaming at SDSU's School of Hospitality and Tourism. Under the terms of the endowment, the institute has created and introduced a one-of-a-kind academic curriculum leading to a B.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management with an emphasis in Tribal Gaming.

The four courses required for the Tribal Gaming emphasis include tribal casino operations, tribal casino marketing and public relations, legal and regulatory issues in tribal gaming and an introduction to tribal gaming's social, political and cultural context. All four courses for the tribal gaming degree are now being offered by SDSU; five students graduated with a degree in tribal gaming this spring. The institute is participating in the development of a professional class of hospitality experts who will enhance the tribal gaming industry in California and across the United States.

In addition to the for-credit academic courses, the Sycuan Institute is also charged with building and maintaining an academic research component that solicits independent research proposals and makes grants to researchers in the relatively new field of tribal gaming scholarship. The institute's research arm supports scholarly research on tribal gaming's social and economic impacts, assists scholars in producing research that is useful to tribal governments and tribal gaming operators, contributes to the literature on Indian gaming's political and community effects, and strengthens the link between scholarly research and policy making that affects tribal governments generally and Indian gaming in particular. During its first three years, the Sycuan Institute has funded more than 15 major research projects treating such diverse issues as responsible gaming, employee diversity, off-reservation gaming and tribal cultural revitalization.

The Sycuan Institute on Tribal Gaming is a unique government-academic partnership that produces numerous benefits for the tribal governments in the region, as well as for the university. For example, the partnership has the potential to improve business performance through strengthening tribal government gaming management resources and creating a pipeline for students to both work and study. The academic research component at the institute can address regulation and other policy issues that would benefit from a research foundation and an objective analysis of the facts. The university provides faculty resources, expanded educational opportunities, and visibility and community awareness for tribal government gaming in the region. Local tribal governments and casino operators, on the other hand, provide professional guidance on course development, access to executives as guest speakers and mentors, internship opportunities for students, industry information and data for research analysis and funding.

We look forward to a long and fruitful partnership between the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation and San Diego State University. By continuing to cultivate a professional work force, develop and document "best practices," build a meaningful and rigorous gaming literature and share successful gaming innovations, we can strengthen tribal government gaming in ways that continue to benefit local people, produce superior gaming employees, entertain patrons and support economic development for our communities.

For more information about the Sycuan Institute on Tribal Gaming at SDSU, visit htm.sdsu.edu/sycuan or contact Kate Spilde Contreras at kspilde@mail.sdsu.edu.

Spilde Contreras is chair of the Sycuan Institute on Tribal Gaming at SDSU.

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