Gaming Rule Changes Could Cost Tribes

Friday, March 14th 2008, 10:53 pm
By: News On 6

Local tribes are hoping new proposed federal gaming rules will not become a reality.  If the new rules are passed they say Oklahoma tribes could lose billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.  News On 6 anchor Jennifer Loren reports the tribes say that means trouble, not just for the tribes, but for the entire Oklahoma economy.

Casino games like the ones at the Creek Nation Casino are currently being put under the microscope.

The National Indian Gaming Commission says new technology in the games is blurring the line between them and games that must be more heavily regulated, games that require a state compact to be legal.

"NIGC and the federal government is not doing this because we want to create a problem. We think there is a problem and clarity is needed," said Chairman Philip Hogen, National Indian Gaming Commission.

Hogen flew all the way from Washington D.C. to talk with the Muscogee Creek Nation about the feds' proposed new rules.  He says tribes need to buckle down and write some clear-cut definitions as to which games are Class 2 and which games are Class 3.

Not doing so, he says, will create problems for the tribal gaming industry.

"If there's not clarity then you lose some of that credibility and then some of that integrity gets eroded," said Hogen.

Principal Chief A.D. Ellis disagrees.  He says they're following a lot of regulations already put in place.

"We're regulated more than any industry. We're regulated by the tribe, the state and the federals. So I disagree. We're totally regulated," said Chief Ellis.

Chief Ellis says the new rules would mean not just more regulation, but restrictions on gaming that could be devastating to his and other tribes' economies.

"I think more consultation with the tribes is due and I think we need to visit more on it," said Chief Ellis.

And while the proposed rule would mean a lot for the tribes they say it would not mean that much for the average casino patron.

The games may be slower if the rules go into effect, although the commissioner says not slow enough to make them any less attractive.  He says they would be less profitable.  And tribal gaming supporters say because of that, all Oklahomans will see a difference in the long-run.

They say what hurts their tribes' economies hurts all of Oklahoma.

"Well I think it's the difference between Oklahoma being prosperous and Oklahoma being non-prosperous. That's what I think," said Judge Patrick E. Moore, Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

The rules are just proposals at this point.

The National Indian Gaming Commission is still deciding if they'll finalize the regulations and, if so, what will they look like.  Then Congress will have to approve them.

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