Campbell statement on S.1529
Tuesday, August 5, 2003

The following is the floor statement of Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) on S. 1529, a bill to amend the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to include provisions relating to the payment and administration of gaming fees, and for other purposes. July 31, 2003.

Mr. CAMPBELL. Mr. President, today I am pleased to be joined by Senator INOUYE in introducing the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act Amendments of 2003 to amend and update the act.

In amending the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (IGRA) it is important to keep in mind the twin aims of the act: to ensure that gaming continues to be a tool for Indian economic development; and to ensure that the games conducted are kept free from corrupting forces to maintain the integrity of the industry.

This bill will update the IGRA by clarifying how vacancies in the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) are filled; revising the NIGC statutory rates of pay to correspond with other current Federal rates of pay; and expanding the NIGC's reporting requirements to Congress.

The bill also clarifies the act by making the Johnson Act inapplicable to class II technological aids to bring it in line with the original intent of Congress in 1988.

The bill also requires background checks on class III management contractors, management employees, and gaming commissioners.

When the IGRA was enacted in 1988, Indian gaming was mainly high stakes bingo operations, known as "class II gaming'' under the act. Virtually no one thought Indian gaming would become the $14.5 billion dollar industry that it is today, providing tribes with resources for development and employment opportunities where none previously existed.

In response to this success, questions have been raised--some legitimate, some not--about the efficacy of regulation within the industry. This bill requires that the NIGC and the gaming tribes develop and implement a system of minimum internal control, background investigation and licensing standards for all tribes that operate class II and class III gaming.

The bill would also ensure that the NIGC has the resources it needs to fulfill its regulatory duties by increasing the fee cap 50 percent over the next six years. With that budgetary increase, and prior to levying any fees, the NIGC would be required to determine and take into account the nature and level of any tribal or joint tribal-state regulatory activities and to reduce the fees assessed accordingly.

The bill will enable the NIGC to provide technical assistance and training to Indian tribes. The NIGC would be authorized to expend the civil fines it recoups for violations of the IGRA for these purposes.

The last substantive reform in the bill goes to the very heart of the act--economic development for Indian tribes. Because of gaming, some tribes have been very successful, employing thousands of people, both Indian and non-Indian, and reducing poverty and the welfare rolls in their areas.

This success has attracted the attention of other governments, cash-strapped and hungry for new revenues. Many States are looking to gaming tribes to help eliminate their deficits, and some States are reportedly refusing to enter or renew compacts required under IGRA until tribes agree to revenue sharing provisions.

Congress never envisioned that kind of pressure would be applied to tribes and, keeping these facts and the goals of IGRA in mind, the bill includes provisions to ensure that tribal gaming revenues are first used to meet the needs of tribal governments and their members. Only after satisfying those needs, would States and tribes be able to negotiate a revenue-sharing agreement.

To encourage States and tribes to negotiate, the bill requires the Secretary to perform her existing responsibilities under the act within 90 days and, at the back end, when existing compacts are up for renewal, the bill provides a 180 day grace period beyond the expiration date of compacts to encourage tribal-State agreements.

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