Tribal leaders opposing proposed casino regulation change 6-29-07

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A proposal to change the way American Indian casinos are regulated has drawn opposition from tribal officials, including at least one in Oklahoma.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, has written draft legislation that would give the National Indian Gaming Commission the authority to establish minimum internal controls for casinos.

Dorgan, D-N.D., said the draft was for discussion and input from the tribes and others would be sought before introducing a bill.

Tribal officials told to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Thursday that their casinos are regulated enough by their own tribal gaming commissions and the states in which they're operated.

“We are the primary regulators and we've done an absolutely fabulous job,” W. Ron Allen, chairman of the Washington Indian Gaming Commission and of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, said in a story from The Oklahoman's Washington bureau.

Tracy Burris, gaming commissioner of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, was scheduled to testify at the hearing but couldn't attend because of flight problems.

Burris' prepared testimony for the committee expressed strong reservations about Dorgan's bill, which would amend federal gaming laws that tribes have been operating under for years.

The internal control standards include the movement of money from machines and tables, the storage and use of playing cards and placement of surveillance cameras, according to Philip Hogen, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission.

The national commission exercised authority over the internal controls until the Colorado River Indian Tribes successfully sued over the issue. A federal district court and an appeals court ruled that the commission didn't have the authority to set minimum internal control standards.

The integrity of the $25 billion Indian casino industry would be enhanced by uniform federal control standards, Hogen argued.