The Senate Indian Affairs Committee is planning to review tribal gaming during the July 22 scheduled oversight hearing. In anticipation of an increase in the numbers attending, a location larger than the usual setting has been assigned to accommodate the audience.
The committee has not reviewed Indian gaming for over a year, and this will be newly appointed committee chair U.S. Senator John Barrasso’s first oversight hearing concerning the topic. Titled “Safeguarding the Integrity of Indian Gaming”, the meeting will be focused on the recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report to Congressional Requesters titled “Regulation and Oversight by the Federal Government, States, and Tribes.”
Findings of GAO’s in-depth study and analysis included concerns about corruption and mismanagement, and criticized the results of voluntary compliance with federal guidelines, specific to the proper money handling, financial statement accuracy, and casino security. The auditors reported that 25% of all Indian gaming operation were a “high audit risk.”
In a press release issued by the committee, Chairman Barrasso admonishes The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) to “find more effective methods that will ensure all facets of gaming are conducted with accountability and accuracy.”
GAO report further states that the NIGC has been negligent in enforcement actions such as issuing violations, and asks that it increase efforts to ensure the tribes receive training and technical assistance to aid in forming casino policy and ensuring the employees are qualified to identify criminal activity.
The report confirms that when states have a robust system in place, criminal activity is more difficult to conduct. A specific example given of a strong in-place system was Arizona’s Department of Gaming which employs 100 regulators to oversee 23 casinos.
The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, made permanent in 1984, does have jurisdiction “to study the unique problems of the American Indian” specific to economic development. Gaming has become a significant source of revenue generating in excess of $28 billion by 2013 with more than 400 operations in 28 states.
The NIGC is an independent federal regulatory agency established in 1988. The commission is composed of a Chairman and two commissioners. Their budget, funded from tribal fees, is currently $19 million a year.