Monday, September 10, 2007

Senate To Review Indian Casino Oversight Law

The U.S. Senate is once again looking into changes on federal oversight of Indian casinos.

In August 2005, a decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that the Colorado River Indian Tribe could not be penalized for denying the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) access to monitor the Tribe’s compliance with NIGC's Minimum Internal Control Standards (MICS) for Class III gaming.

The NIGC adopted MICS in 1999, which specifies the minimum practices tribes must follow when conducting Class II and III gaming. The case arose in 2001, during an audit of the Colorado River Indian Tribe’s Class II and Class III gaming operation at the Blue Water Casino. The Tribe challenged the NIGC's authority over Class III gaming and denied the NIGC access to Class III gaming records. The NIGC Chairman levied a Notice of Violation on the Tribe and a Civil Fine Assessment. Both the Notice of Violation and Civil Fine Assessment were overturned in the District Court decision in 2005.

In deciding that Congress did not intend to give the NIGC the authority to issue Minimum Internal Control Standards (MICS) for Class III gaming, U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates warned that "this opinion should not be read to hold that the NIGC will never be able to audit a Class III gaming operation, or that the NIGC may not penalize a tribe that resists a valid audit."

The Senate may change the language of the law to strengthen Federal oversight. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, presented a discussion draft bill in June 2007 that would amend IGRA class III regulatory responsibilities.

Last year, proposed changes to amend IGRA did not become law and at the most recent June hearing on the matter Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said he will do his utmost to make "disappear" any bill that comes out of the June 28th discussion draft.

It is believed that the Mohegan Tribe follows the MICS although the Tribe requests exceptions to these internal controls.

An example of the MICS surveillance checklist can be found at: http://www.nigc.gov/LinkClick.aspx?link=NIGC+Uploads%2fMICS%2fMICSchecklist%2fauditing%2fSurveillance-A+542.23.doc&tabid=241&mid=887