NIGA Steps In The Ring
In what is surely the strangest coupling in the history of Indian Country, the National Indian Gaming Association announced a partnership with wrestling star Hulk Hogan yesterday.

Hogan is lending his likeness to a "Hulkamania" slot machine. A percentage of the revenues will be donated to Dreamseekers, a new NIGA organization that will help Indian youth.

"This is going to be the best slot machine in Indian Country," NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr., a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, said to a large crowd of tribal members and Hulkamaniacs.

Stevens, a former boxer, didn't say much about the project other than to challenge Hogan to a match. The wrestler declined -- noting Stevens' relative youth and "good looks." Both plan to talk more about the venture during the final keynote of G2E today.

Tribal Gaming Regulatory Issues
It's often said that tribal gaming regulators are the first line of defense in Indian Country and a panel shared their experiences overseeing the $25 billion industry. "We want to present an honest, fair and safe operation," said Huber Nanty, the executive director of gaming for the Tonto Apache Tribe of Arizona.

Jamie Hummingbird, a gaming commissioner for the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, said tribal regulators face unfair criticism. He pointed to repeated attempts by the National Indian Gaming Commission and Congress to impose more layers of oversight of tribal casinos.

"In all fairness, tribal gaming regulators have done a great job," he said. "Tribal leaders have done a great jobs. The operators are doing well."

E.J. Egghart, an auditor who frequently works with tribal casinos, said gaming regulators should be tough. "We don't want to be best friends with management," she said.

Local Issues
They say all politics is local but for Indian Country, the same issues seem to affect tribes everywhere. That was the case for a panel that discussed all the hot topics facing tribes: Class II regulations, Section 20 regulations, land-into-trust and the "CRIT Fix."

Barry Brandon, a former chief of staff to the NIGC who now works for the Seneca Nation of New York, said tribes have repeatedly won court cases on Class II games. "If you're out there gambling, you know the difference" between a Class II machine and a Class III machine.

But Joe Valandra, NIGC's current (but soon to be outgoing) chief of staff, reiterated the agency's determination to draw a "bright line" between Class II games like bingo and Class III games like slot machines. Tribes have until January 24, 2008, to submit their comments on the regulations.

Delia Carlyle, the chairman of the Ak-Chin Indian Community in Arizona, said she was worried that Congress might address the Colorado River Indian Tribes case in a way that is negative to tribes. The court case ruled that the NIGC can't regulate Class III gaming through its Minimum Internal Control Standards, or MICS.

"Our standards are higher than the MICS," Carlyle said. "Indian gaming I still feel is over-regulated."

Anthony Miranda, the chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, disagreed with the notion of a "CRIT Fix," legislation that would resolve the court case by granting NIGC authority over Class III games. But he said he had a pragmatic approach to the debate.

"I'd much rather deal with the feds than the state on regulatory issues," said Miranda, a member of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in California.

What's happening on the last day of G2E? The highlights:
Thursday, November 15
• Native Matters: Tribal Gaming Past, Present and Future - The keynote led by Ernie Stevens features Delia M. Carlyle, the chairwoman of the Ak-Chin Indian Community in Arizona; J R Matthews, the vice chairman of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma; Anthony Miranda, the chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association; and Max B. Osceola, a council member for the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
• Land Into Trust Applications: What's Ahead for Tribes? - Join assistant secretary Carl Artman and two former Bureau of Indian Affairs officials -- Aurene Martin and Mike Anderson -- as they talk about gaming and land-into-trust.

G2E 2007: Indian Gaming Track | At a Glance | Full Program

Live from the 2007 Global Gaming Expo