CARNEGIE, Okla. - The National Indian Gaming Commission has ordered the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma to close the doors on its gaming operations.
In a letter from NIGC Chairman Montie Deer, the Kiowa were given 24 hours to close the gaming center. NIGC representatives were at the center on June 2, June 13 and June 14, and informed the center's manager that 28 of the 85 machines in the Kiowa Grand Center were considered Class III gaming devices and were illegal.
In Oklahoma, any tribal casino with Class III gaming must also have a compact with the state. The Kiowa Tribe had no agreement, but continued to operate the illegal machines. Class I gaming is defined as traditional Indian social games, bingo games fall under Class II and Class III is casino type gaming.
Kiowa Tribal Chairman Earl Yeahquo said the tribe plans to appeal the decision with the NIGC. "We can reopen as soon as we make an appeal. The next thing we are going to do is appeal and hopefully we will have the place open again real soon. We are going to remove the machines. They should have been out of there, I guess, before now."'
Yeahquo said the tribe would have to contact NIGC before reopening even if it removes illegal machines. NIGC Director of Congressional and Public Affairs Kyle Nayback said, "The Kiowa Tribe was operating gambling devices that were Class III and without a state compact those devices are illegal."
Nayback said it was the NICG, not the state of Oklahoma that closed the tiny gaming operation down. "Some tribes have been allowed to operate games pending appeal, if it has been negotiated. I can't comment on what will happen about this."
Nayback went on to explain that there are expedited appeals that have taken a week and others have taken more than a year since each case is different.
However, he said the Kiowa Tribe could possibly reopen if the illegal machines are removed. "They would be in compliance if they shut off all the machines that we deemed were Class III machines."
The tribe could reopen if they operated only Class II games.
Yeahquo hopes to get the Kiowa Grand Center reopened soon. Eight employees and their families are without income since the facility closed. He said he thought the employees could draw unemployment, but wasn't sure.
Yeahquo also said that it isn't just employees who are affected since income from the small gaming facility is used to help tribal members.
"We're able to help our tribal members whenever there is financial assistance needed and we try to help our elders whenever we can. Our young people, we are giving them money for various activities, school and sports-related activities. In some instances we help with clothing and that kind of thing. It is a good source that benefits our tribal members."
The NIGC keeps a tight rein on Indian gaming throughout the country and even small gaming operations like that run by the Kiowa are watched closely.
"The National Indian Gaming Commission is committed to keeping the Indian gaming industry clean, tribes in compliance with the law and making sure the industry isn't jeopardized by the actions of a few," Nayback explained. He added that the tribe had been warned at least once before the closure was ordered.