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Washington in brief

Gaming commission circulates gaming regulations

The National Indian Gaming Commission issued three preliminary sets of rules in May that would regulate electronic Class II gaming, license both Class II and Class III gaming facilities, and finalize formal standards for minimum internal controls at tribal casinos.

The electronic Class II rules are meant to clarify the distinctions between Class II (bingo, et al.) and Class III (poker, et al.) machines, which have been blurred by technological advances, according to the commission. The proposed rules also change definitions to bring Class III facsimiles of Class III machines within the regulatory bailiwick of Class III gaming compacts. The commission has scheduled consultation sessions in Washington, D.C., July 12 – 13; Bloomington, Minn., July 17 – 18; Denver, July 19 – 20; Tacoma, Wash., July 24 – 25; Ontario, Calif., July 26 – 27; and Oklahoma City, Aug. 8 – 9.

The proposed rules can be accessed on the Internet at the NIGC Web site, (click on “Laws & Regulations” at left, then “Commission Regulations” and finally on “Proposed Regulations/ Revisions”).

A second set of rules proposes “Facilities Licensing Regulations.” To comply with the regulations, tribes would have to demonstrate that a casino is located on eligible Indian land according to Indian Gaming Regulatory Act definitions and that it operates under adequate public health, safety and environmental standards. In return for compliance, the NIGC would annually license tribal casinos to operate. Remarks on this second set of rules must be sent to the NIGC by June 30.

On May 11, by virtue of publication in the Federal Register, the NIGC finalized rules for minimum internal control standards at tribal casinos. NIGC authority to regulate the minimum internal controls of Class III gaming operations is under dispute in the courts. A bill now before the Senate, S. 2078, would clarify the commission’s authority in keeping with the final rules promulgated on May 11. Depending on the timing of an appeals court decision, the bill if passed could pre-empt the court process.

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Dent amendment is withdrawn but lingering

Rep. Charles Dent, R-Penn., offered an amendment to an Interior Department appropriations bill May 18 that sought to forbid the department from spending appropriated funds to process off-reservation gaming applications. The amendment was withdrawn by unanimous consent on the same day.

In materials released by his office, Dent highlighted a lawsuit by the Delaware in Oklahoma to acquire land within Dent’s Pennsylvania district. Pete Richards on his staff said the congressman will wait to see if the issues that concern him are addressed in other legislation before deciding whether to offer the amendment again.

Kempthorne gets anticipated Interior nod

Dirk Kempthorne, former senator and governor of Idaho, rode his congressional connections and his reputation as a consensus-builder to easy confirmation as Secretary of the Interior. The Senate confirmed him by a vote of 85 to 8 on May 26.

He set at least one precedent by meeting with the leadership of the National Congress of American Indians on his first day in office. President Joe Garcia and Jefferson Keel, first vice president, applauded the outreach, noting that solutions to many of the challenges before Interior depend on including tribes in the policy-making process.