For Immediate Release ~ January 6, 2006
Contact: Shawn Pensoneau ~ (202) 632-7003
Washington DC, January 6, 2006 — Philip Hogen, Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), entered into a pre-opening agreement with the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma. The agreement was signed by Nathan W. Tselee, Interim Chairman of the Tribe, as authorized by the Tribe’s Business Committee, and specifies the requirements the Tribe must meet to resume gaming on its Indian lands pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).
The pre-opening agreement sets forth various compliance measures that the Tribe will take as a condition to resuming gaming operations, including measures to address the previous IGRA violations. The Tribe must demonstrate full compliance with all of the terms of the pre-opening agreement prior to the NIGC permitting it to recommence gaming on a probationary basis. If it does not, the NIGC will not allow the Tribe to re-open its facility. Moreover, during the probationary period, the NIGC will monitor whether the Tribe is in compliance with IGRA, NIGC regulations, the Tribe’s gaming ordinance, the Tribal-State compact, and the terms of the agreement. If the Tribe fails to correct violations of these laws, regulations, and agreements, the Commission may reinstate the closure order.
In signing the pre-opening agreement, Chairman Hogen said “I am cautiously optimistic that the Tribe can utilize gaming for its much needed economic development; however, I continue to be concerned about the political stability of the Tribe and the its prior record with respect to adhering to requirements of IGRA and NIGC regulations.” Moreover, Chairman Hogen stated that “Continuity in tribal leadership is important when long term economic development projects are embarked upon. The fact that there are recall petitions pending with respect to some members of the Tribe’s Business Committee, and the fact that further elections are scheduled this coming March makes political stability within the Tribe’s government somewhat problematic.”
The Tribe’s Na-I-Sha gaming facility, in Anadarko, has been closed since approximately January 6, 1999, as a result of a closure order issued by the NIGC. The closure order resulted from substantial violations of IGRA, including operating Class III games in the absence of a Tribal-State compact and failing to correct violations within the time permitted in a notice of violation. When the Tribe previously conducted its gaming operation, for over a six year period it failed to file with the NIGC annual audit reports that were required. Further, the Tribe failed to comply with background and licensing requirements with respect to individuals who worked at the gaming facility. During that period of time, the NIGC received reports that there was widespread theft from the gaming operation and that the tribal government never received any revenue from the operation, rather all the money was controlled and spent by the Apache Development Authority. The current tribal government will need to be extremely vigilant to ensure that such violations do not reoccur. If the Tribe successfully meets the requirements in the pre-opening agreement, and opens a new tribal gaming facility, the NIGC will be closely monitoring the operation and its compliance.
Chairman Hogen concluded by stating: “Indian gaming is necessarily a heavily regulated activity, and only those operations that understand and comply with such regulations will be permitted to operate. I understand tribes need resources to address unmet tribal needs, and hopefully gaming revenue will assist the Apaches in meeting those needs. If they play by the rules, gaming may be a resource the Apaches may come to rely upon.”
The NIGC is an independent regulatory agency established within the Department of the Interior pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988.