We testified at the April 17 U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee's oversight hearing on the National Indian Gaming Commission. The impetus for the hearing was tribes' concerns about the NIGC's consultation practices. The NIGC has an internal policy that obligates it to conduct government-to-government consultation with tribes in adopting policy and promulgating regulations. As the Committee heard, though, many tribes perceive that the NIGC's consultation process is form over substance -- that is, that tribes' concerns don't have much affect on the NIGC's policies and regulations. This criticism has been raised throughout the NIGC's protracted process of drafting new Class II "bright line" regulations. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) has introduced a bill in the House that would create a statutory obligation on the NIGC to engage in meaningful consultation with tribes. Several of the hearing witnesses urged the Committee to introduce a similar bill in the Senate. At the hearing, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Chair of the Indian Affairs Committee, did not indicate whether the Committee would draft its own version of the Rahall bill.
After the hearing, it seemed that the focus was less on consultation and more on Class II machines. NIGC Chair Phil Hogen caught much attention for two comments he made. First, that he intended to shepherd the promulgation of the new "bright line" regulations before he left the NIGC. And second, that he estimated that 60% of so-called "bingo slots" are being operated in violation of current law. Interestingly, Sen. Dorgan did not follow up with what we thought were two obvious questions on the second point: if the machines are illegal, what is the NIGC doing to enforce current law, and if they're illegal under current law, why are new regulations necessary? We think Hogen may have overstated his certainty that the machines are in violation of current law, but perhaps that will be the topic of another hearing . . . . .
Download our testimony or link to the April 17 oversight hearing by clicking here and then on the announcement of Kathryn's testimony at the hearing.
Find press coverage of the hearing here and here.
Labels: Class II Gaming, Kathryn/Steve Quoted Here, Regulation