Just one month after the National Indian Gaming Association sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to appoint a new chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission, the current chairman, Phil Hogen, is stepping down. The letter was a result of a unanimous decision by the NIGA board asking that Hogen be replaced as soon as possible.
Hogen, an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, has been the chairman of the NIGC for the past six years. His tenure has been controversial, as he has sought to implement minimum internal control standards and technical standards for Class II gaming machines, and to extend the regulatory authority of the commission to all casino gaming in Indian Country. Tribes have battled with him at every step of the way. In many cases, legal challenges to NIGC rulings have resulted in victories for the tribal positions.
George Skibine, a career employee at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is replacing Hogen on a temporary basis. Skibine formerly was acting principal deputy assistant secretary at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. By law, Skibine could serve as acting chairman of the NIGC for up to 120 days.
Tribes have welcomed the arrival of Skibine, who has deep relationships in Indian Country. J.R. Matthews, Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma vice chairman and NIGA treasurer, said Skibine may change the attitude of the tribes toward the NIGC.
“I think George is a great choice as an interim because at the Department of the Interior he was used to doing consultations with tribes and he did a good job,” Matthews told Indian Country Today.
Hogen departed on October 1 and was replaced immediately by Skibine.