Some Gaming Tribes Concerned About GAO Casino Audit

Many gaming tribe officials are apprehensive about what may result from a multi-year study of Indian gaming by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). They fear the report may lead to calls for more oversight on Indian gaming.

An audit that the Government Accountability Office plans to release next year has some gaming tribe officials worried that it will lead to a call for more regulatory oversight by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), reports Dave Palermo for

Most officials suspect that Congress will not find enough unanimity on the issue to reopen it, but they fear that the very fact that the audit calls for reforms will taint the reputation of Indian gaming, which is now a $28 billion business.

The audit was a result calls for investigation by Senator John McCain, among others, who feel that Indian gaming is subject to enough oversight. McCain is one of the principal authors of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988.

One tribal official, Jamie Hummingbird, chairman of the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission, complained recently that McCain, “doesn’t believe the NIGC is doing enough to regulate the industry.”  The effectiveness of such oversight has been the subject of debate since IGRA was adopted.

McCain, among others, is not happy that the federal government has more authority over Class III gaming and almost none over Class II gaming. Tribes are also not required to seek gaming compacts with their states over Class II gaming.

Many critics of Class II gaming want to limit it so that there is no confusion between its bingo-like qualities and the slot machines associated with Class III gaming. 

The GAO audit is zeroing on the number of enforcements that have been issued by NIGC, which have declined in recent years.

According to Hummingbird that need not be a bad thing. “Tribes have worked hard to develop regulations and build their reputation. It the report paints the NIGC as not providing adequate oversight it may take years to get that trust back.”