One of the most divisive issues ever handled by the National Indian Gaming Commission was resolved when the agency decided to put aside some of the regulations it had formulated to define exactly what can be called Class II gaming machines.
In the past 10 years, the line had blurred between what is a Class II versus a Class III slot machine. NIGC Chairman Phil Hogen has, for his entire seven years in office, expressed a desire to draw a ?bright line? between the two by establishing clear standards and definitions. He has now abandoned that effort.
After the initial results of an economic impact study conducted by the NIGC, Hogen says the proposed regulations are considered ?major rules? and therefore require an in-depth cost-benefit analysis. Addressing the Oklahoma Sovereignty Symposium held last month in Oklahoma City, Hogen said the NIGC would ?put aside? the onerous regulations on classification standards and definitions and only concentrate on technical standards and minimum internal control guidelines for Class II machines.
According to the National Indian Gaming Association, which applauded Hogen?s decision, the economic impact of the proposed regulations would have been dire. The study reported that tribes would stand to lose up to $1.2 billion if the rules were implemented, and compliance costs would have increased by almost $350 million.
In addition, says NIGA, the regulations would have impacted smaller tribes most heavily in states such as Montana, Alabama, and North and South Dakota.
The NIGC consulted tribes during the early part of the process, but many tribal officials and game manufacturers complained that the final version of the regulations did not consider their concerns.
?Our thanks goes out to tribal government leaders and tribal gaming commissioners,? said NIGA Chairman Ernest Stevens, ?for their hard work in staying active and engaged with the NIGC and requesting consultation with tribes prior to the development of such sweeping regulations.?
Stevens says his members anticipate working with the NIGC to complete the remaining items on the Class II agenda.
?Working together with Indian Country, there is an opportunity to develop acceptable Class II MICS and classification standards that the tribes and industry can implement without severe economic hardship,? he said.
Hogen said he hoped that the commission?s decision to concentrate on the technical and MICS standards ?would help achieve the long-sought clarity, sooner rather than later.?