Jodi Rave: NIGC presents new hurdle for tribes

"Velma Thomas remembers when “spotters” were posted across Nebraska's Santee Reservation to warn casino workers if an FBI agent had entered tribal lands.

Law officers eventually seized the tribe's gaming machines, put a freeze on tribal bank accounts, imposed daily fines of $6,000 and threatened to imprison all tribal council members.

“They had this tribe up against a wall,” said Thomas, who was the Ohiya Casino manager during the years the tribe and the state of Nebraska failed to negotiate a gaming compact.

Even without a compact, the tribe opened a casino and offered Class III slot machines to players. Eventually, though, the burden of operating an illegal casino forced the Santee to give up slots in favor of Class II bingo machines.

Five years later, the casino generates a $600,000 payroll for the rural community.

But a new hurdle may be in order for the Santee and other Class II gaming operators in Indian Country. That's because the National Indian Gaming Commission - a federal oversight agency - aims to overhaul the definition of Class II machines.

“It basically would make every Class II machine on the floor in Indian Country illegal,” said Elizabeth Homer, a former vice president of the NIGC. “They would become noncompliant.”"

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Jodi Rave: Gaming panel looks to limit Class II machines (The Missoulian 12/12)
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