Tom Cole: Change to Indian Gaming – A Solution in Search of a Problem

On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee, led by Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), held an oversight field hearing on “Oklahoma Indian Issues: Proposed Regulations Governing Economic Development.”

Links to Audio Clips of the hearing are available on Indianz.com.

The National and Oklahoma Indian Gaming Commissions were represented, as were the Choctaw, Quawpaw, Peoria, Cherokee, Osage, and Chickasaw tribes, as well as the city of Miami, Ottawa County, and the Miami Community and Economic Development Department.

Tony Thornton NewsOK.com gives some background:

The National Indian Gaming Commission, which regulates the industry, wants to clarify the difference between Class II, or bingo-based electronic machines, and Class III slot machines such as those found in Las Vegas. Technology developed over the last two decades has blurred that distinction, regulators say.

Most experts agree the proposed changes would make existing Class II games illegal, forcing tribes to pay states a share of profits in return for the right to offer Class III games.

That’s already happening in Oklahoma, thanks to voters’ approval of tribal gaming compacts in late 2004.

Dan Boren (D-OK)and Tom Cole (R-OK), a Chickasaw, also attended, and supported the tribal chiefs in their opposition to the changes, according to the Tulsa World:

“The (proposed) regulations are a solution in search of a problem,” Cole said. “It will cripple economic development in Indian Country, not promote it.”

[…]

“We don’t want the equilibrium disturbed,” said Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith. “I find it quite interesting that the state and state officials have not complained about these changes.”

The changes being discussed would require bingo machines to be classified as slot machines and bring in extra revenue to the state governemnts, at the expense of the tribes.

Indianz.com explains:

In the case of Oklahoma, tribes have to share revenues with the state for Class III machines. Though tribes make less money on Class II machines, they depend on them to generate revenues at their casinos.

If enacted, the NIGC’s regulations would turn some Class II machines into Class III ones. A study predicted a loss of $1 billion across the nation.

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