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Seminole Tribe becomes first in Indian Country to achieve gaming self-regulation certification

selfregulationday1HOLLYWOOD — Becoming the first Tribe in Indian Country to achieve self-regulation certification from the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) is less about luck and more about how the Seminole Tribe of Florida plays a professional hand.

“Today is truly an important, historic day for the commission and all of Indian Country – and it is not to be taken lightly,” said NIGC Acting Chairman Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri Oct. 16 during a presentation to mark the occasion at Seminole Headquarters.

NIGC is an independent regulatory agency authorized by Congress through the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988. IGRA aims to standardize the gaming industry on Native lands with the intention to strengthen Tribal economic development and Native American self-determination. Currently, nearly 500 Indian gaming establishments are operated through 242 Tribes across 28 states.

Under IGRA and subsequently drawn NIGC regulations, self-regulation is only granted when a Tribe demonstrates that it satisfies all applicable requirements, including a three-year review to ensure that gaming activity is compliant with IGRA, NIGC regulations and the Tribe’s laws and regulations.

A Tribe also must show that it effectively accounts for all gaming revenue; has a reputation for a safe, fair and honest operation; and is free of criminal or dishonest activities. It must also prove that the gaming operation runs on a fiscally sound basis and that it has adequate systems in place for accounting, investigations, licensing and enforcement.

A member of the Muscogee Creek Tribe and born in north Florida, Chaudhuri was flanked at the certification delivery by Seminole Chairman James E. Billie and NIGC Associate Commissioner Daniel Little. Also in attendance were Tribal Councilmen and Seminole Gaming Commissioners.

“Clearly, the Seminole as a Tribe has always been a pioneer – a groundbreaking people,” said Chaudhuri, who credited the Tribe for securing NIGC’s ability to grant the first self-regulation status. “None of this would have been capable without the Seminole people.”

Little called the paper certificate that was provided in a cardboard frame “a small token in our hands but a major expansion of Indian sovereignty.”

Chairman Billie passed the honor to the Tribe’s Gaming Commissioners and to Gaming Compliance Director Ed Jenkins, whom he thanked for ushering the Tribe through the last 14 years of gaming growth.

“Jenkins came to teach us how to do things the right way; we learned a few lessons along the way, but here we are now and we are proud for it,” Chairman Billie said.

Future Seminole Tribe business with NIGC will likely be within the realm of “ceremonial visits to check in,” Chaudhuri said. Little, Chaudhuri and General Counsel Jim Shore each informed the Tribe Commissioners and Councilmen to expect a flood of telephone calls from other Tribes seeking self-regulation advice.

Seminole Gaming Commission Chairman Allen Huff, of Brighton, said inquiries have already begun. He received a telephone call earlier in the day from a member of the Southern Band of the Cherokee.

“Word is already out,” Huff said. “This is when we can say, ‘Look what we’ve done.’ Let them call; let them come to our doors. Let’s do more for Indian Country.”