NCAI meeting debates gaming issues

18 June 2007

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- (PRESS RELEASE) -- The National Conference of American Indians held their Mid-Year Conference in the land of the midnight sun where more than 500 Tribal Leaders gathered to discuss the state of Indian affairs. During a meeting of the NCAI Gaming Sub-Committee, Tribal Leaders voiced opposition to the National Indian Gaming Commission's (NIGC) campaign to expand their statutory authority to regulate Indian Gaming.

The Gaming Sub-Committee is chaired by Ernest Stevens Jr., Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA). "The NIGC does not speak for Indian Country when it comes to the regulation of our gaming enterprises. The NIGC needs to acknowledge that Tribal Government regulators are the frontline regulators and while the NIGC plays an important oversight role, it must respect the existing statutory framework of IGRA," Stevens said.

Tribal Leaders at the Gaming Sub-Committee endorsed Stevens' position. One Tribal Chairman said, "the NIGC is seeking to expand federal agency bureaucracy at the expense of tribal self-government." The Sub-Committee adopted a resolution defending the existing framework of the Act and that was endorsed by NCAI's general membership.

"Tribal Governments And States Can And Do Regulate
Gaming On Indian Lands Under IGRA"

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act creates a strong framework for the regulation of Indian gaming. First, tribal governments must enact tribal gaming regulatory laws to meet minimum Federal statutory standards on protection of the public health, safety and environment to ensure the integrity of Indian gaming. Our tribal regulatory ordinances are reviewed and approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Second, to conduct Class III Indian gaming – or casino style gaming – tribal governments must negotiate with state governments to enter into Tribal-State Class III Regulatory Compacts that set forth the framework for regulation and gives the States an independent regulatory role.

Finally, the National Indian Gaming Commission maintains a continuous oversight role for Class II Indian gaming, bingo, pull-tabs and related games, and for Class III, the Federal Commission receives annual audits, reviews background checks and licenses, and retains oversight authority to ensure that tribal governments have a strong system in place to enforce tribal regulatory laws.

As regulatory bodies, Tribal Governments have a record of hiring the most qualified individuals – former FBI agents, tribal and state police, former state regulators, bank examiners, and auditors – to safeguard Indian gaming. Tribes invest more than $335 million to regulate Indian gaming: $255 million for tribal regulatory agencies, $70 million to reimburse the states for state regulation, and $15 million to pay the NIGC for Federal regulation.

In addition, the FBI and the Department of Justice have the power and authority to prosecute anyone who cheats or steals at an Indian gaming facility. This authority is a unique protection for Indian gaming, which does not extend to state lotteries, commercial gaming or horse-racing. To fulfill this special responsibility, the FBI created the Federal Indian Gaming Working Group, which includes the IRS to ensure compliance with tax laws, Treasury Department Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to prevent money laundering, the FBI, Department of Justice, Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement, and the National Indian Gaming Commission. The Department of Justice has repeatedly testified to Congress that there is no evidence of any systemic organized crime infiltration into Indian gaming.

The New Incarnation of Federal Government Intrusion:

Federal Agency "Mission Creep"

Despite the existence of a strong regulatory system, Federal agencies will naturally seek to expand their statutory mission. In Washington, D.C., they call it "mission creep." With the NIGC, instead of helping maintain its statutory oversight role, the agency sought to re-write the rules for Class III gaming through so called "minimum internal control standards." The Federal Courts saw through this agency action and held that Congress delegated that authority to the tribes and the states through the Class III compacting process.

Unfortunately, the NIGC is using the media to launch a crusade to secure new statutory authority to re-write the rules for Indian gaming without regard to the current efforts of tribal and state governments. The NIGC continues to ignore Tribal Leaders and federal courts by implying that the Tribes need "help" and "oversight" in order to maintain the integrity of their gaming establishments.

Tribal governments reject the agency's characterization of "help" and "oversight" and call it what it is: federal agency "mission creep." We call upon the NIGC to honor the original congressional intent of IGRA to build strong tribal self-government and self-reliance. We call upon NIGC to work within the existing statutory framework of IGRA and respect the role of tribal governments as regulators. When the NIGC does that, it will find that tribal governments are strong regulators and we stand ready to work with the NIGC on a basis of cooperative federalism, with mutual respect.

Yet, we cannot stand by while NIGC seeks to disregard IGRA's existing statutory structure and the hard work that both state and tribal governments have put into the regulation of Indian gaming.

Indian Gaming: Our Native American Success Story

Today, more than 220 Indian tribes use Indian gaming to create jobs, re-establish economies, and rebuild their communities.

In 2006, tribal governments generated $25 billion in gross revenues through Indian gaming. That means tribes created more than 650,000 jobs nationwide. It also means that Indian tribes created more than $11 billion in Federal and state taxes and tax savings through Indian gaming. Yet, most importantly, it means that we are beginning to transform the lives of our people, providing new hope through new schools, hospitals and clinics, and economic diversification. It means that tribes are now providing basic infrastructure in terms of police and fire protection, water and sanitation services, elder and child care. Further, gaming revenue has helped tribes renew their native traditions and cultures.

When American voters hear our story of self-reliance, 72% of American voters support Indian gaming. 75% of American voters understand that Indian tribes benefit through Indian gaming in terms of jobs, essential government revenue, and essential government services. More than 2/3s of American voters agree that Indian gaming is also benefiting our neighboring state and local communities.

Finally, a national poll found that 79% of American voters agree that there is enough or more than enough regulation of Indian Gaming under existing laws. In short, the public understands recognizes that tribal governments maintain a strong, sound system of regulation for Indian gaming because, after all, no one has a stronger interest in the success of Indian gaming than tribal governments.

In a word, Indian gaming is the Native American success story of renewed self-sufficiency and strong tribal self-government, and that is exactly what our visionary tribal leaders intended.

Related Links
National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Mid-Year Conference 2007
National Indian Gaming Commission