With casino gambling spreading profitably among Indian tribes across the country, community banks in rural areas still have a And both tribal officials and bankers who have done it say the secrets are education and communication.
"At many Indian reservations, you're talking about people who have lived on the margins of society, economically speaking and otherwise," said Bruce MacDonald, tribal spokesman for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in southeastern Connecticut. "These are people who have not necessarily had a lot of banking experience."
David Line, compliance officer with North Sound Bank in Poulsbo, Wash., who as a loan officer made loans to the nearby Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, said many banks are uncomfortable dealing with Indian tribes because of "a feeling of the unknown there." That's particularly true because the banks don't have the security of being able to foreclose on reservation property.
"You kind of have to have a leap of faith as far as how you deal with all the laws involved in lending on reservations," he said. "But that's the way you get into a comfort zone. Just do business with them for a while."
Among the ways community banks to work more easily with Indian tribes and casinos are:
*Seek to meet with tribal representatives to inform them of available banking services.
*Present information about checking and savings accounts to tribe members and employees.
*Offer to install ATMs or have a branch available for tribe members and casino employees.
*Set up information booths on the reservation.