Phil Hogen, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission, wants to wind up implementation of proposed rules that might define many unregulated Class II bingo machines in tribal casinos as Class III slot machines subject to various states’ rules and revenue sharing. Tribes seeking more “consultation” have delayed the progress Hogen wants, and he says he resents congressional suggestions that even more talk should be required by new law.
After the federal Interior Department dismissed 11 tribes’ off-reservation casino applications in January over new emphasis on “commutability,” U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-West Virginia) proposed a House bill that would require “regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration” with tribal officials as agencies develop any policy affecting tribes. Rahall was also influenced by the lengthy Class II debate.
“I think the proposed act of Congress that is the House bill would do a disservice to us, the regulators who have a job to do,” Hogen told the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. NIGC would probably have to hire more staff to handle lawsuits that could result from more consultation, Hogen predicted. In the words of one report, he said that “tribes often don’t consider consultation adequate unless federal regulators agree with them.”
J.R. Matthews, vice chairman of the Quapaw Tribe of Quapaw, Oklahoma, retorted that “the NIGC has a pre-determined decision… and they tell us they are for change, but they don’t listen to us.”
Hogen would disagree after numerous comment periods and extensions on the Class II changes. “The thing is, I’ve got to get this done,” he said. “I mean, I’ve been at it now for more than five years. It’s time to draw this bright line so the industry, the manufacturers, the tribes and the states know what’s going on.
“Right now, there’s confusion,” Hogen added. “That’s not good for the industry, and if and when it appears that there’s a loss of integrity in the system, then the goose that laid the golden egg will be at risk. I don’t want to be responsible for that.”