Cherokees Clarify Gaming Commission Duties

An amendment recently passed by the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council in Tahlequah, Oklahoma limits the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission to regulating only gaming activities. The council also voted to comply with National Indian Gaming Commission minimum internal control standards and established an advisory board.

In Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council recently approved an amendment to clarify the duties of the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission. That body will continue to regulate all gaming activities, but it will no longer have authority over food, beverage, retail and other non-gaming activities at the tribe’s gambling facilities. Cherokee Nation Businesses, the economic development arm of the Cherokee Nation, will regulate those areas. Tribal councilors said the change will save the tribe million in annual regulatory costs.

The amendment also requires the tribe to comply with National Indian Gaming Commission minimum internal control standards, and establishes a three-member advisory board within the CNGC to be filled by tribal councilors.

Council attorney Dianne Barker Harrold said, “The goal was to reassign the duties between Cherokee Nation Businesses and the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission. Nongaming activities will fall under the supervision and control of Cherokee Nation Businesses, and gaming activities or anything directly related to gaming will be under the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission.”

Amendment co-sponsor Councilor Jodie Fishinghawk said she and other councilors wanted to amend the gaming law to limit the CNGC to “the bare minimum” in regard to regulating gaming operations. She added the amendment would require the CNGC to do only what is required by National Indian Gaming Commission standards. “The gaming commission has expanded its regulations and its ticks to include our non-gaming activities and businesses, as well as venturing into areas restricting government. That’s why we started looking at this. It still sets boundaries; we are not doing away with the gaming commission. This sets up a three-person advisory board and still sets the minimum internal controls. Ninety-five percent of the tribes do this,” Fishinghawk said.

She noted many CNGC regulations hinder gaming operations and negatively affect CNB’s dividend to the tribe. CNB gives 35 percent of its net profit to the CN for services, which, in fiscal year 2013, totaled $44.1 million.

CNGC Director Jamie Hummingbird said the CNGC wants to work with CNE to the fullest extent within the law. However, he said the CNGC’s regulations are necessary for compliance. “What we are dealing with is what is put down to us, not only from NIGC standpoint, but what we’re required to do within our compacts,” Hummingbird said, adding regulations cost money and the CNGC tries to minimize costs. 

In other Cherokee Nation news, the tribe’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa recently opened the 125-seat, 24-hour, retro-themed HWY 66 Diner. Mark Fulton, chief operating officer for Cherokee Nation Entertainment, said, “It’s just a classical diner,” noting the 1950s-era décor includes booths, stools along a counter and a checkered floor. “We’ve got a beautiful retro marquee sign that says ‘Diner’ with arrows that flash.” He added the wait staff wears vintage-style 1950s uniforms.

Paul Jarrell, senior director of food and beverage at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, said, “The working jukebox plays tunes from more than 1,000 CDs between the 1940s and the 1980s. It’s a fun, rocking and rolling place.”

HWY 66’s menu features more than 50 selections, including all-day breakfast, appetizers, hot and cold sandwiches, burgers, foot-long hot dogs and entrees. The “Oklahoma Hubcap” is a 16-ounce chicken fried steak with sides, and the “Brutus Burger Challenge” features two pounds of beef, 12 tomato slices, 12 slices of cheese, 12 strips of bacon on a grilled bun with 2 pounds of fries and a milkshake. The diner also offers six signature options of macaroni and cheese served in a skillet.

“This is a ‘50s diner with a Hard Rock twist. We invite everyone to come on out and give it a try. We’re really excited about it,” Fulton said.