White House clears Skibine for interim NIGC chair

WASHINGTON – The White House has approved George Skibine to be interim chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Skibine, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the BIA and Director of the Office of Indian Gaming within the Interior Department, was cleared for the interim position Friday, Oct. 2, BIA spokesman Gary Garrison confirmed.

Skibine will begin his new post Monday, Oct. 5, temporarily replacing Chairman Phil Hogen, who announced his retirement from federal service in September.

Skibine, a member of the Osage Nation of Oklahoma, will serve as interim chairman until President Barack Obama appoints a permanent replacement for Hogen.

During his interim post, Skibine will give up his duties as Director of the Office of Indian Gaming.

“Because he’s going up to the commission, he feels he has to recuse himself from dealing with gaming issues from this end of the street,” Garrison said.

Garrison said he could not speak to whether Skibine would be interested in being appointed as permanent chair of the NIGC.

The NIGC is a quasi-independent agency within the Interior Department that was created by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

According to the commission’s Web site, it’s “primary mission is to regulate gaming activities on Indian lands for the purpose of shielding Indian tribes from organized crime and other corrupting influences; to ensure that Indian tribes are the primary beneficiaries of gaming revenue; and to assure that gaming is conducted fairly and honestly by both operators and players.”

The NIGC is authorized to conduct investigations; undertake enforcement actions, including the issuance of notices of violation, assessment of civil fines, and/or issuance of closure orders; conduct background investigations; conduct audits; and review and approve tribal gaming ordinances.

Paula Hart, the Deputy Director of Indian Gaming, will fill in the void during Skibine’s interim post, but Skibine will continue in his role as Deputy Assistant Secretary.

“George will still be doing the Deputy Assistant Secretary for whatever assignments Assistant Secretary (Larry) EchoHawk will give him. George has always been a multi-tasker,” Garrison said.

Skibine has been employed by the Interior Department for more than 30 years and has served in a number of roles relating to American Indian issues, including Assistant Secretary for Policy and Economic Development and Deputy Associate Solicitor for the Division of Indian Affairs.

He is a member of the Minnesota and District of Columbia bars, and has a law degree from the University of Minnesota law school and an Economics degree from the University of Chicago.