Washington DC, May 11, 2006 ─ Today National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) Chairman Phil Hogen testified before the House Resources Committee to discuss the regulation of Indian gaming, including the Minimum Internal Control Standards (MICS) for Class III gaming that are currently in place.
House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA) called the oversight hearing to educate the Members of the Committee and staff on the different levels of oversight and regulation, including MICS placed on Class II and Class III tribal gaming, as a result of passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in 1988.
During his testimony, Chairman Hogen recognized that Indian gaming has done more for the economic condition and infrastructure of Indian country than anything ever has before. Hogen stressed that the NIGC only seeks to continue the current structure that has been in place since 1999 when NIGC adopted a set of MICS. Additionally, Chairman Hogen said “the MICS have been a very effective tool by which the NIGC can measure the industry and ensure integrity at all levels, which an overwhelming majority of the facilities adhere to on a day to day basis.”
Hogen stated “in 1988 when the IGRA was passed, the Indian gaming industry was primarily bingo and generated revenues around $200 million. Fast forward to 2005 and the Indian gaming industry has changed tremendously generating revenues of $22.5 billion dollars with well over 80%, or about $19 billion, coming from Class III gaming, or casino style gaming.”
A Member of the Resources Committee asked Chairman Hogen how much each state differs in their regulatory capacity, to which Chairman Hogen pointed out that each state differs tremendously in their regulatory commitment to Indian gaming. Hogen added information collected by NIGC staff shows that the state of Arizona provides a staff of 66 for the oversight and regulation of Indian gaming, the State of California dedicates a staff of 66 to mostly monitor the revenue sharing process, the State of Oklahoma has a staff of 3 to regulate over 80 Indian gaming facilities and monitor the revenue sharing process and the State of North Dakota has a staff of 2 to regulate Indian gaming in that state.
During the question and answer portion of the hearing, University of Minnesota Professor Kevin Washburn stated if NIGC’s oversight role in Class III gaming is not clarified, they may become known as the “National Indian Bingo Commission.” Chairman Hogen has testified in the past that the NIGC could evolve into an advisory commission if Congress does not move to clarify NIGC’s role with respect to Class III Indian gaming.
The other witnesses included Mr. Ernie Stevens, Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association; Mr. Raymond Aspa, Sr., Member of the Tribal Council, Colorado River Indian Tribes; Mr. Norm Des Rosiers, Commissioner, Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Tribal Gaming Commission; Mr. Kevin Washburn, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota; and Mr. Frank Ducheneaux, Consultant representing the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association and the Great Plains Indian Gaming Association.
The NIGC is an independent regulatory agency established within the Department of the Interior pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988.