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Colorado River Indian Tribes respond to Gaming Magazine's Article
By Eric Shepard
I write in response to your September 23 article on Senator McCain's reaction to the federal court's ruling on the authority of the National Indian Gaming Commission. As the plaintiff in this case, we want to thank you for covering the issue but need to set the record straight on several factual errors that unfortunately appeared in the article.
First, Judge Bates did not hold that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act "does not empower the federal government to issue or enforce regulations on tribal casinos," as your story stated. That Act creates different "classes" of tribal governmental gaming and in plain English assigns a different kind of regulation to each. Tribes and the Commission share regulatory authority over one class, and tribes and the states share regulatory authority over the other. The judge in fact recognized the Commission's authority to issue and enforce regulations in the area of tribal gaming, but he also recognized the clear language and structure of the Act that assigned different types of regulation to different governmental entities. He concluded, quite properly, that the Commission had strayed over the line from its permissible sphere of regulation into an area that had been left to other governments to oversee.
Second, if in fact Commission Chairman Hogen told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee that the Colorado River Indian Tribes ("CRIT") is denying the Commission access to its financial records, Chairman Hogen was wrong. The Tribe has cooperated fully with the Commission. The Tribe granted the Commission complete access to conduct the MICS audit of its gaming operations, even while challenging its authority to do so. There has been no proceeding of any kind against the Tribe for failure to disclose financial records.
If the court's ruling moves Senator McCain and his colleagues to expand the Commission's statutory authority, it is their right to pursue that course of action. We have great respect for Senator McCain and have been privileged to work with him on Native American matters. He does our tribe and Arizona proud. Such a legislative exercise, however, and reporting, should be based on the facts, not unfounded accusations of misconduct on the part of CRIT.
And when all of the facts are understood they will show that Indian gaming is one of the most regulated industries in the country, with more levels of oversight than, for example, that imposed on Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
That's why the federal court decision was such a sound one. It respected the position and principle advocated by tribes without diminishing the protections that safeguard the public.