GAO Report Criticizes NIGC

A long-awaited report by the General Accountability Office on tribal government gaming has resulted in a suggestion to improve the oversight of the industry by the National Indian Gaming Commission.

An extensive report on the tribal government gaming industry was released last week by the General Accountability Office (GAO). While some details had been leaked previously, the report generally supports the regulatory regime in the industry at the tribal level, finding a variety of issues that need to be addressed. The federal level regulatory agency, the National Indian Gaming Commission, has recently relied on voluntary compliance with its regulation, something that has irked some members of Congress.

The report also evaluated state level oversight of tribal gaming and found that seven states have an active regulatory role, 11 states have a moderate role, and six states are categorizes as having a limited role. The GAO visited 12 tribes during its study and found that all of them had regulatory agencies responsible for the day-to-day regulation of their gaming operations.

The GAO report examined (1) Interior’s review process to help ensure that tribal-state compacts comply with IGRA; (2) how states and selected tribes regulate Indian gaming; (3) the NIGC’s authority to regulate Indian gaming; and (4) the commission’s efforts to ensure tribes’ compliance with IGRA and commission regulations. The GAO analyzed compacts and Commission data on training, compliance, and enforcement; and interviewed officials from the Interior Department, the commission, states with Indian gaming, and 12 tribes in six states GAO visited selected for geographic distribution and gaming revenues generated.

The GAO recommended that the commission (1) obtain input from states on its plans to issue guidance on class III minimum internal control standards; (2) review and revise, as needed, its performance measures to better assess its training and technical assistance efforts; and (3) develop documented procedures and guidance to improve the use of letters of concern. The commission said it generally agreed with GAO’s recommendations.

Senator John McCain, one of the author’s of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, was more critical.

“The primary role of NIGC is to maintain the health and integrity of Indian gaming for the benefit of Indian tribes,” said McCain. “If NIGC continues to rely on Indian casinos to voluntarily comply with federal guidelines, then the commission must at least improve its state and tribal training and consultation initiatives and develop metrics that assess their effectiveness.”