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NIGC Orders Immediate Closure of Nooksack Indian Tribe Casino

The Nooksack Indian Tribe has been ordered to close the Northwood Casino by the National Indian Gaming Commission due to multiple violations.
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The Nooksack Indian Tribe has been ordered to close the Northwood Casino in Deming, Washington by the National Indian Gaming Commission.

On June 15, Jonodev O. Chaudhuri, NIGC chairman, issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) and immediate Closure Order against the tribe as a result of a thorough and multi-faceted investigation by the NIGC “that identified numerous violations of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), NIGC regulations and the Nooksack Tribal Gaming Ordinance.”

In a June 15 release from NIGC, the NOV details the violations as:

  • The tribe failed to maintain its sole proprietary interest and responsibility for the conduct of any gaming activity.
  • The tribe failed to submit the required attestation certifying that the construction and maintenance of the gaming facility adequately protects the environment and public health and safety.
  • The tribe failed to maintain and operate the gaming facility in a manner that adequately protects the environment and public health and safety, which is evident in orders issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) detailing significant deficiencies of the Safe Drinking Water Act that have occurred at six water systems, including the Northwood Casino Water System.
  • The tribe failed to perform required licensing actions for members of the Nooksack Business Corporation II (NBCII) who are primary management officials of the Northwood Casino.

“We do not take lightly the issuance of notices of violation and closure orders against tribal gaming operations. We are taking this significant enforcement action only after a complete analysis of the unique circumstances involved, including a full review of the structure of the tribe’s governing and business bodies,” Chaudhuri said in the release.

The Nooksack Indian tribe government and business bodies have been the subject of an ongoing dispute over the disenrollment of 306 tribal members (Nooksack 306) whose common ancestor was not included on a historic roll as required, as reported by ICMN in August 2016.

Current Nooksack Chairman Bob Kelly told ICMN in 2016 that “the 306 need to meet the membership criteria just like everyone else did. To date, they have refused to provide the necessary documentation that would substantiate their claims of being Nooksack.”

In October of 2016, the Department of the Interior notified Kelly that it does not recognize any of the Nooksack council’s actions after March 24, 2016, as ICMN reported. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service and Housing and Urban Development joined Interior in no longer recognizing the Nooksack Tribal Council, with NIGC as the lone agency still acknowledging the council. NIGC joined that group with Thursday’s notice. In a June 6 Opinion column on ICMN, Harold Monteau—a former NIGC chair—called for a thorough investigation by the NIGC in light of the decisions not to recognize the current tribal council by Interior.

“The violations set forth in the Notice compromise the integrity of the Northwood Casino and the gaming industry as a whole, diminish the sole proprietary interests of the tribe, threaten the health and safety of the public, and impede the tribe’s ability to make necessary decisions to administer their operations.” Chaudhuri said.

The Nooksack Tribe can correct the ongoing violations by complying with all licensing requirements, submit the required construction and maintenance attestation, and address the EPA violations the release states. If the tribe does not seek to correct the violations it could face civil penalty violations in the amount of $50,276 for each violation per day of occurrence.

ICMN has reached out to Bob Kelly for a reaction to the ruling.