After many years of inactivity on the subject, Congress is again starting to look at reforming the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which sets the rules for how the federal government regulates Indian gaming.
Several comments made during hearings held by the House Subcommittee on Indian Affairs last year and just last month give clues to what issues may be explored in coming months leading up to the November election.
Some have accused tribes of lying about off-reservation casinos. Others noted that tribes themselves often clash over competing gaming interests. Still others say that regulators are not doing enough to police the industry. Tribes, on the other hand, would prefer to talk about the successes of Indian gaming and to pave the way for more tribes to take advantage of it.
All of this probably doesn’t fit into what Senate Committee Chairman Jon Tester had in mind when he began holding hearings on Indian gaming earlier this year.
One member of the committee, Minnesota Senator Al Franken, commented during the hearings, “There is a lot of debate about gaming in general, but one aspect that is undeniable is the economic development benefit of gaming to tribes. If Indian gaming vanished tomorrow, and all tribal needs shifted to federal trust responsibility, what would that look like?”
However, one issue that threatens the expansion of Indian gaming is the very controversial one of off-reservation Indian gaming. Tester’s committee has heard testimony from all sides of this issue, including tribal, and state and federal officials.