The local Fresno Bee is reporting that two new gaming commissioners have been appointed to the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians’ gaming commission. The two are among the most well known and respected regulators in the tribal gaming industry.

The two will repopulate the three member board that resigned along with the executive director two weeks ago.

Phil Hogen, is the former chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC). He was named as an adviser to the tribe last week. Joseph Smith is a former director of audits and finance for the NIGC, and brings over three decades of gaming experience to the commission.

Last October the NIGC sent a letter to the tribe threatening to close their Chukchansi Gold Casino if late audits were not tendered. A rival faction of the tribe conducted a raid on the casino’s offices, claiming to be seek the financial data to save the casino. Police were summoned, guests were evacuated, members of the raiding party including tribal policemen hired from other tribes were arrested, and the casino was shut down by the NIGC as well as a federal judge on request from the California Attorney General’s office as a threat to public safety.

The casino has yet to re-open and the appointments of Hogen and Smith are hoped to bring a focus for the tribe to establish some unity after last weekend’s tribal elections left leadership in disarray with no consensus on how to move forward. Major divisions remain among at least three factions of the tribe.

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