Last week, the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) held their annual Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C. The agenda was packed with Senate and House congressional members and officials from President Trump’s administration reporting on the state of current affairs.
A highlight of the NIGA summit was an announcement by the chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), Jonodev Chaudhuri. Chairman Chaudhuri lauded the Indian gaming industry as “gaming grown from self-determination soil” and released the 2016 revenue figures for tribal government gaming operations – totaling $31.2 billion – an overall increase of 4.4 percent.
Putting those numbers in historical context, Chairman Chaudhuri declared “Indian gaming works in Indian country because of Indian country.” He was clear to frame the success of Indian gaming as an outgrowth of compliance with the purpose and principles of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) – to enhance tribal self-sufficiency, economic development, and self-determination.
Chaudhuri also discussed the NIGC’s recent series of consultations throughout Indian country as part of its ongoing commitment to meaningful consultation with tribal nations and in performance of its regulatory responsibilities. Specifically, he said NIGC plans to determine the scope of any grandfathering provision under the proposed Class II gaming system regulations in the near future. Under the IGRA, Class II machines, which are used for bingo, lotto, pull tabs, and other such games, do not require a tribal-state compact or sharing the tribe’s gaming revenues with the state. Class II gaming is particularly useful to tribes in states that refuse to negotiate gaming compacts.
Chaudhuri stated the current Class II gaming system regulatory discussion draft incorporates concerns from Indian country and other stakeholders to achieve a balance between the risk sought to be mitigated and the preservation of the integrity of Indian gaming. He announced that the NIGC will continue to meet with the NIGA Tribal working group.
In closing, Chairman Chaudhuri briefly reported on other ongoing NIGC consultation efforts dealing with (1) nonbinding guidance for Class III minimum internal control standards (MICS); (2) rural outreach; (3) developing a strong workforce through training; (4) management contract regulations and procedures; (5) technical standards for mobile gaming devices; and (6) modifications to fee regulations. He expects NIGC to respond to those efforts in Fall 2017. However, Chaudhry said to expect a press release very soon on a revamp of the environmental “categorical exclusion” process for management agreements under NIGC’s recently published “Protocol for Categorical Exclusions Supplementing the Council on Environmental Quality Regulations Implementing the Procedural provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act for Certain National Indian Gaming Commission Actions and Activities.”