Bush nominates Hogen to head NIGC

WASHINGTON ? President George W. Bush on Sept. 3 nominated Philip N. Hogen, Oglala Lakota, to chair the National Indian Gaming Commission, the national regulatory agency with oversight of Indian gaming.

Hogen is currently the Associate Solicitor for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior. He must receive Senate confirmation before assuming the chairmanship of the NIGC.

No stranger to gaming regulatory work, Hogen previously served as an NIGC associate commissioner from December 1995 to June 1999. When he left the commission in 1999, Hogen was replaced by Teresa E. Poust, who continues in that post as a holdover appointee, as her term expired in June. Yet with two members, assuming that the Senate confirms Hogen, the commission now has a quorum and can operate with normalcy.

The third seat on the commission remains vacant; it was formerly held by Elizabeth L. Homer, Osage Nation of Oklahoma, who resigned last July. Interior Secretary Gale Norton is responsible for appointing the two associate commissioners; she will reportedly do so within the next week, according to a department spokesman.

Montie R. Deer, Muscogee Creek, had chaired the commission since March 1999. He recently announced his resignation, effective Sept. 5, to take a post at the University of Tulsa Law School.

Among other candidates most frequently mentioned to succeed Deer was John Hensley, chairman of the California Gambling Control Commission.

NIGC is challenged with regulating, from the federal level, the rapidly growing Indian gambling sector, which includes Class III casinos and Class II bingo halls. The regulatory agency currently faces a federal lawsuit by Austin, Texas-based Multimedia Games Inc., a manufacturer of electronic gambling machines that are widely used in Indian-owned gaming establishments. NIGC in April reclassified one of the company's most popular games, MegaNanza, from Class II to Class III, effectively outlawing it in Oklahoma, where Class III gaming is not permitted. Three Oklahoma tribes, the Cherokee, Choctaw and Chickasaw nations, have joined Multimedia in its litigation against the regulator.

Meanwhile, Multimedia on Sept. 3 announced that it was "disheartened" to learn that a former unidentified director was indicted with a group of co-conspirators accused of defrauding investors by manipulating trade in the stock of Multimedia and other unnamed companies in 1996 and 1997.

"As far as we know, neither the company nor any of our current officers or directors is the subject of any investigation relating to these matters, and we know of no reason to anticipate that will change," said Gordon Graves, Multimedia Chairman and CEO, in a press release. "We have confidence in our justice system and will, of course, provide our full cooperation in any investigation."