WASHINGTON - In a time of rising industry revenues and criminal hijinks,
Indian gaming tribes have upped the ante on casino cheats and cons.
The National' Indian Gaming Association announced July 12 the creation of
the Indian Gaming Intelligence Network, or Eaglelntel, a national security
network for sharing information among gaming tribes and regulators.
Sharing intelligence is nothing new in Indian country, said Gerald
Danforth, EagleIntel administrator and project consultant. From runners who
carried wampum up and down the east coast to World War II code talkers in
Pacific jungles, networking information is an old and venerable Native
In the high-stakes gaming industry, enforcement is struggling to stay
abreast of lawbreakers. Current offenders flee one area for another before
they can be collared or charged, Danforth explained. Dice cheats rolled
their way through five different casinos in the upper Midwest recently
until they were brought to justice.
EagleIntel, a nonprofit subsidiary corporation of NIGA, is the crown on the
security pyramid. To date, tribal gaming security has been coordinated only
at the regional level. An e-mail here and a fax there, if not nationally
coordinated, sometimes aren't enough to keep fast-moving culprits from
driving off over the horizon.
As a result, EagleIntel isn't designed to replace existing operations, said
Danforth, but to act as a "conduit between systems. The more dialogue you
have, everybody gets better at what they're doing."
The Internet-based Eaglelntel will report incidents via e-mail within
seconds posting and provide a database with personal profiles, including
Fourteen tribes contributed to the design and development of the network,
which will link tribal regulators, security personnel, and state and
federal agencies. It will give instantaneous notice to every registered
user - including multiple users within a tribe - of any suspicious activity
or infraction. If a blackjack cheat absconds in a red convertible, everyone
on the network will read about it with the click of a mouse.
"Success will depend on maximum participation," offered Danforth. If all
gaming tribes participate, "the eyes of the eagle will be all over the
The system cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to set up, officials estimated,
with the help of thousands of volunteer hours. Participants will be charged
a fee-for-service to defray the costs of a director, assistant director and
facial recognition technology.
NIGA officials said Eaglelntel wasn't inspired by a specific event but is
the result of a gradual evolution in thinking. Over time, gaming tribes
have expressed a desire for a comprehensive nationwide security network.
From parking lot to casino to hotel, the eagle eyes of surveillance track
the gamut of the gaming experience in Indian country. Mark Van Norman,
executive director of NIGA, said the system for tribal surveillance efforts
"compares favorably with any in the country."
Tribes spend over $290 million annually to regulate an industry that earned
$18.5 billion in revenue in 2004. Over 3,000 regulators monitor Indian
gaming at the state, tribal and federal levels.
The unveiling of EagleIntel at the National Press Club followed a chorus of
testimonials to gaming. One hears a lot of stories about rich Indians, said
Ernie Stevens Jr., NIGA chairman, "but the only thing that's becoming rich
is our communities."
Tribal officials from around the country described hospitals, schools,
community and cultural centers, convenience stores and even college
educations that have been funded in full or in part by casino money. "We'd
have to wait 40 years" for Congress to fund a new high school, said Tex
Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, who spoke of a reservation
revitalized by gaming dollars.
"It isn't always the dollar that is visible that's the benefit," added
Jeanne Jerred, councilman for the Colville Confederated Tribes. Above and
beyond profits and jobs, she said, new health facilities and Head Start
buildings have brought her people a welcome measure of self-respect.
In the course of the press conference, some of the usual suspects were
outed. Anthony Miranda, chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming
Association, underlined the difference between corporate and tribal
government gaming. "Las Vegas doesn't talk about building schools. They
don't talk about building bridges. They don't talk about water projects for
their community. But we do.
"We're doing a better job of investing our money in our own communities
than the United States government has done in fulfilling its trust
responsibility to tribes."
As the have-nots become haves in gaming communities, even their dreams have
"It's not about survival anymore," said Emily Conklin, vice chair of the
Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas. "It's about thriving." Not long ago, "we thought
we were only entitled to survive."