San Diego, March 30, 2015 - Yesterday evening the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) held its Board of Directors Meeting in San Diego, CA before Indian Gaming 2015 officially kicked off Monday morning with golf tournaments and the addition of new pre-conference tracks (Leadership Development, What's Hit in Indian Gaming and The Slot Academy Presented by Clarion Events Ltd). In attendance were the NIGA Executive Board Members, Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., Vice-Chairman Kevin Leecy, Treasurer Andy Ebona and Secretary Bernadine Burnette as well as the delegates representing their regions.
The NIGA Board of Directors Meeting began with an invocation followed by words from Indian Gaming 2015 sponsor, First Data. First Data is an innovative payment, e-commerce and POS technology company. who recently won the gold medal for the "Best POS Innovation" at the PYMNTS.com Innovator Awards Ceremony earlier this month. As a proud sponsor of Indian Gaming 2015, First Data Senior Vice President, Christopher Foskett addressed the NIGA Board of Directors and thanked the NIGA Board of Directors. "First Data is delighted to be a sponsor of this evening's meeting and to be a major sponsor of Indian Gaming 2015, said Mr. Foskett. We look forward to a successful 30th anniversary NIGA Conference and Tradeshow and are pleased to have the opportunity to share the solutions that we are brining to the Indian gaming community."
The NIGA Board of Directors Meeting continued with the Chairman's Report. Chairman Stevens gave the 2014 Year End Review, which highlighted the journey of Indian gaming over the last year. The many visits to Capitol Hill, speaking engagements, panel participation and visits throughout Indian Country have not gone unnoticed. The work that is done in Washington, DC and in our tribal communities advances our seat at the table and ensures our voice is heard. Coming off an active year, Chairman Stevens was excited to share what the next 4 days of Indian Gaming 2015 has in store.
Chairman Stevens also spoke to the recent efforts of the American Gaming Association's (AGA) PR campaign to bring Indian gaming into the commercial gaming industry portfolio. While a diplomatic approach has been taken, Chairman Stevens reassured the board that NIGA, its Member Tribes, regulators, operators and our advocates are the ones equipped to tell the Indian gaming story and will continue to do so. Chairman Stevens did just so this past February when he delivered the Tribal Gaming Seminar's 'United States Indian Gaming: The $28 Billion Dollar Industry' keynote address at ICE Totally Gaming in London. There is international interest in Indian gaming and no one knows our story as we do.
NIGA Treasurer Andy Ebona followed with the Treasurer's Report. He informed the board of the wise spending decisions that have been practiced by NIGA leading to an increase in cost savings. Treasurer Ebona assured that NIGA and its staff are doing a great job are on target for 2015. NIGA's 2015 operating budget was carefully reviewed making sure there is financial transparency. As a nonprofit, NIGA is adamant about its financial responsibilities. The Treasurer's Report also included the 2014 Audit Report by Joseph Eve, which illustrated the financial strength of the association.
Cheryl Crazy Bull, Executive Director of the American Indian College Fund (AICF) briefly spoke to the board. Celebrating its 25th anniversary and its partnership with NIGA, the AICF gifted and wrapped Chairman Stevens with a star quilt for the unwavering support and dedication to provide our Native youth with education opportunities.
Proceeding Ms. Crazy Bull was NIGA Executive Director, Jason Giles who gave the Executive Director's Report. Mr. Giles provided a comprehensive update on the NIGA office building construction progress and costs. As the national champion for Indian gaming in our nation's capitol, NIGA is expanding its offices. The added office space will provide meeting space to NIGA Member Tribes and fellow advocates when in the area. While it has been a lengthy process, NIGA has taken on fundraising efforts in attempt to meet the June 15, 2015 occupancy date and maintains its operations from the San Manuel office building in Washington, DC.
Executive Director Giles went on to give a legislative update that included the General Tribal Welfare (GWE) Act, which has been successful with the help from the Tribal Leaders Tax Alliance. The importance of implementation remains key to the GWE Act. The Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2015 and the need for a democratic cosponsor as it is a tribal sovereignty issue not necessarily a labor issue was also discussed. This led to a discussion on Internet gaming.
The focus of Internet gaming shifted from wondering if Internet gaming will be legalized to if it will be completely banned and how that would work with 5 tribes currently allowing Internet gaming. The IRS has also proposed a rule that would alter the reporting system by lowering the reported winnings as well as the suspicious activity report. NIGA board members chimed in and spoke to the increase in operational costs and a decrease in revenue for tribal casinos. The added burden with no added value is not cost effective for tribes, its simply bureaucratic red tape. Before Mr. Giles concluded, the board made a motion to draft a letter to the IRS regarding the proposed rule.
Peter DeRaedt, President of the American Gaming Standards Association (AGSA) gave a brief presentation on the international trade association's invitation to Indian gaming to join them in creating standards for technological developments in gaming. AGSA recognizes the strength of Indian gaming in the industry and want NIGA and its Member Tribes to be a part of contributing to this effort. NIGA will follow-up on the invitation following the tradeshow. Towards the end of the meeting, NIGA Board of Directors addressed old business and looked at new business. NIGA Board Member brought a resolution to the board to Support Honoring First American Veterans Fund Campaign to support the Education Center and the American Indian Veteran's Memorial, which was passed by the board.
The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) Nomination Resolution and the Reaffirmation and Protection of Trust Lands Resolution were both adopted by the board. Having an appointed Chairman for NIGC is crucial to operation and Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri has been doing a superior job as acting Chairman. A need for a Carcieri fix continues to be important especially with the pending lawsuits facing tribes regarding the status of their land.
The NIGA Board of Directors Meeting will continue Thursday, April 2, 2015 during Indian Gaming 2015 before the next meeting in May at the Great Plains Indian Gaming Association (GPIGA) Conference & Tradeshow in Prior, MN.