Wednesday, April 27, 2005

AP: Senate Committee on Indians Affairs far from over -- McCain wants regulations on indian casinos NOW

Oversight Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, on the Regulation of Indian Gaming, Wednesday, April 27, 2005, 9:30 a.m. Room 485, Russell Senate Building. Witness List:

McCain: More Laws Needed on Tribal Casinos
Sen. John McCain Says More Regulations Are Needed for Booming Tribal Gambling Industry

By ERICA WERNER Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON Apr 27, 2005 — John McCain, chairman of the Senate's Indian Affairs Committee, said Wednesday he will seek tougher regulations for the booming tribal gambling industry, which far outpaced Nevada's as it took in $18.5 billion last year.

McCain, R-Ariz., faced opposition from tribal leaders at a hearing where he called for changes including more money for oversight and new rules to keep tribes from passing off slot machines as less-regulated bingo devices.

But he said it was high time to review the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The law regulating tribal casinos has not been amended since its passage in 1988 helped turn Indian gambling into a huge industry with more than 400 casinos in 28 states.

"I don't want this hearing to be viewed as some attack on Indian gaming," McCain said. "It's not. Indian gaming is here to stay. The question is, do we protect the patrons of Indian gaming to the fullest extent consistent with our responsibilities, and I think we have clearly identified some areas that need to be addressed."

The National Indian Gaming Commission, (NIGA), the federal agency that oversees the nation's 400-plus tribal casinos, had a 2004 budget of about $10.5 million and employs 78 people, according to testimony Wednesday from its chairman, Phil Hogen.

By comparison, Nevada's Gaming Control Board had a 2004 budget of $36.4 million and 439 employees to oversee about 360 casinos.

"I don't believe that the NIGC has enough funds. I don't believe it. Because I look at the comparable regulation of gaming in Nevada," McCain said. Major Nevada resorts took in $9.88 billion in gambling revenue in the 2004 fiscal year.

Tribal officials objected to changing the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, arguing that in combination with state and federal oversight, the regulatory agencies that tribes themselves have in place offer more than sufficient oversight.

"We are a little bit frustrated that we continually hear how tribal gaming is insufficiently regulated," said Norman DesRosiers, chief administrator of the tribal gambling agency for the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians in San Diego County. "There are enforcement mechanisms in place, and I don't think more legislation is necessarily the answer." [Sovereignity is one thing, but another is stemming from the Abramoff scandals, is it not?]

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