The Tulalip Resort & Casino hosted hundreds of tribal leaders and gaming professionals for the annual Northwest Indian Gaming Conference & Expo. This year the northwest tribes brought attendees an exciting conference with a number of key sessions.
The Northwest Indian Gaming Conference opened with a warm welcome by Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA) Chairman, W. Ron Allen, who is also the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribal Chairman. Chairman Allen is a nationally renowned tribal leader and was this year's recipient of the National Indian Gaming Association's (NIGA) 2015 Wendell Chino Humanitarian Award. Chairman Allen has served his tribe since 1977. All the titles and awards aside, Chairman Allen is first and foremost a front line, hardworking Native leader.
Next, Conference attendees received a national update from the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President Brian Cladoosby. NCAI President Cladoosby noted the progress made in the current Obama administration and the accomplishments tribes have made during his two terms in Washington, DC. Under President Obama, more land has been put back into trust for sovereign tribes than any previous administration. President Cladoosby made it clear that this administration has made some historical accomplishments and thanked the leadership for their role in making that happen. He reminded Indian Country that our forefathers fought to protect our reservations, and they would be honored to see the tribal leaders today who are making history and preserving Indian Country.
NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr. also spoke and reported on the current issues affecting tribes in this Congress and the measures that NIGA is taking on behalf of Indian Country. Foremost amongst those concerns is the IRS' continuing interaction with tribal gaming. We continue to advocate with the IRS in encouraging consultation and a better understanding of the General Welfare Exclusion Act (GWEA) and its implementation. Now it is time to educate the IRS and America as to why this is the law and how it began with the US constitution. Chairman Stevens noted that current NIGA board member and Puyallup Councilman, David Z. Bean, testified at the Department of Treasury's/IRS public hearing on June 17th to express these concerns. Councilman Bean provided a thorough and informative presentation on behalf of Indian Country.
The Northwest Indian Gaming Conference offered breakout sessions designed to engage attendees. Everything from gaming in Washington State to cross marketing between casinos and c-stores was covered. Informative roundtables on gaming commissioners and regulators as well as security and surveillance were also held on the first day.
The final day of the Northwest Indian Gaming Conference opened on the tradeshow floor with breakfast and networking. National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) Chairman Jonadev Chaudhuri provided an update and discussed what was on the horizon for Indian gaming regulation. NIGA participated in the Internet gaming breakout session that was held with other tribal leaders. NIGA Deputy Executive Director Danielle Her Many Horses stated that NIGA will continue to watch the Internet gaming debate intensely. She noted that the current discussions in Congress have moved from a limited legalization of Internet gaming to a full ban on Internet gaming. However, state governments continue to move forward with legalizing Internet gaming. She stressed, that if you are a tribe located in a state that legalizes Internet gaming, as tribes improve their infrastructure and Internet based customer service, you must be thinking about how Internet gaming can be integrated in your operations safely and with proper regulation.
Staying abreast of current trends, WIGA offered a session that focused on the millennial generation and their impact on the casino business. Everything from slots to casino design must be revamped for the next generation to capture how they interact with technology and what they expect as the first generation raised from an internet based customer service model.
The Northwest Indian Gaming Conference served to educate attendees and commercial vendors on the current state of gaming in Washington State and indeedthroughout Indian Country. This conversation will continue in St. Paul, MN at the NCAI Midyear Conference & Expo next week (June 29th) and on July 21-22, at the NIGA Summer Legislative Summit in Washington, DC.