Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) held a hearing to review President Obama's nomination of Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri (Muscogee Creek) to serve as chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) as the Committee's first order of business upon returning from a month-long recess for the November 4th elections. The President nominated Chaudhuri, who currently serves as the Acting Chair, in July of 2014. The Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell appointed Chaudhuri as an NIGC Commissioner on September 4, 2013 for a three-year term.
The position of NIGC Chairperson has been vacant since October 2013 when former Chairwoman Tracie Stevens (Tulalip Tribes) departed after her 3-year term ended. Chaudhuri is one of three commissioners responsible for regulating more than 420 American Indian gaming facilities in 28 states among some 240 tribes. Mr. Tester said, "For the Commission to succeed, it needs good leadership. Mr. Chaudhuri has provided that leadership in an acting capacity for over a year now. He has a extensive background in Indian affairs and is respected in the Indian law and Indian gaming communities." Chaudhuri's background includes experience as a federal Indian law professor, tribal court judge, and high level policy advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs within the Interior Department. Chaudhuri will need Committee approval and confirmation by the full Senate to head the agency.
"The long-standing integrity of Indian gaming is a top priority for all of Indian Country. It's imperative that all the levels of oversight that have a role in regulating Indian gaming have the tools necessary to do the job. I look forward to the final confirmation of Mr. Chaudhuri as the Chairman of NIGC so that tribes can continue in collaboration in the oversight of Indian gaming." Stevens noted that the United States would then also have to fill the vacant Commission spot to provide the NIGC will the full three-member team. He closed by stating, "Indian gaming is the most regulated form of gaming in the United States. Because of the significant resources dedicated by tribal leaders to regulation and because of thecomprehensive system that is in place, the FBI and the Justice Department have repeatedly testified that there has been no substantial infiltration of organized crime on Indian gaming. This system is costly, it's comprehensive, and our record and our experience shows that it's working."
The National Indian Gaming Commission was established over 25 years ago when Congress enacted the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). The agency oversees gaming at the federal level but recognizes tribes as the primary regulators. While tribal governments take on the primary day-to-day role of regulating Indian gaming operations, IGRA requires coordination and cooperation with the federal and state governments to make this comprehensive regulatory system work. Under the Act, the NIGC has direct authority to monitor class II gaming on Indian lands on a continuing basis and has full authority to inspect and examine all premises on which class II gaming is being conducted.