San Manuel gifts $9m to UNLV for tribal gaming education and research

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians has given a $9m gift to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the largest out-of-state philanthropic donation that the tribe has granted to an educational or healthcare institution.

Lauded as a “historic agreement,” the link-up is to support teaching, education and training opportunities for students, professionals, community members and Native American tribes.

Furthermore, the partnership will also mark the first time that elements of tribal gaming will be infused into UNLV’s hospitality and gaming program, adding a tribal emphasis to the nation’s only master’s degree program in gaming law.

“In the tribe’s history, tribal government gaming is the only tool that has worked to meet our economic development objectives,” said Lynn Valbuena, San Manuel tribal chairwoman. “Yet, the full potential of tribal gaming cannot be achieved if we do not also place emphasis on developing native people to manage our economic developments, including gaming. 

“Therefore, we are making this investment in the partnership with UNLV to educate and prepare our children, grandchildren and future generations to help chart our path to a sustainable future.”

A $6m portion of the gift will establish the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians endowed chair in tribal gaming at the UNLV College of Hospitality. It is hoped that this will enhance the curriculum by incorporating tribal gaming into existing gaming courses.

Emphasising partnerships with other schools and tribes around the country, the college plans to have faculty in place later this year, with the full tribal gaming program roll-out anticipated by late 2023.

“As tribal gaming continues to expand throughout the nation, it is critical for our college to be able to educate both current and future professionals on the operational nuances of tribal gaming,” said Stowe Shoemaker, dean of the UNLV Harrah College of Hospitality

“This gift not only helps us develop greater expertise in tribal gaming operations, it allows us to make this unique educational opportunity accessible to everyone.”

At the UNLV Boyd School of Law, $3m of the gift will support a professor-in-residence, a visiting professor and a program administrator who will create opportunities for interdisciplinary dialogue and research on governance, regulation and economic development issues. Funds will also be channelled into a scholarship for a student in gaming, with preference given to tribal citizens and indigenous student applicants. 

“The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians is one of the leaders in tribal gaming in the country, and has made a sustained commitment to philanthropy and research,” said Daniel W. Hamilton, dean of the UNLV William S Boyd School of Law. “We are deeply grateful for their partnership, and look forward to building the nation’s leader in developing best practices for tribal gaming law, policy and governance. 

“This is a wonderful fit for UNLV Boyd where we offer more gaming law classes than any other law school and the nation’s only master’s in gaming law and regulation. This extraordinary gift will enable UNLV Boyd to take on a leading role nationally in an area of the law that is rapidly evolving.”