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On Thursday, October 29, tribal leaders and gaming executives from across Indian Country gathered at Talking Stick Resort on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community for a three-day expo regarding tribal gaming.
Tribal Leaders and Gaming Executives Honor Tradition of Tribal Gaming
By Sheila Begay
Au-Authm Action News

The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, a presenting sponsor, hosted the annual Arizona Indian Gaming Association (AIGA) Expo October 28-30 at the Talking Stick Resort. Tribal leaders and gaming executives from throughout Indian Country gather every year to share knowledge and discuss issues regarding tribal gaming.

Tribal gaming is conducted for the benefit of Native communities. According to its website, the AIGA is committed to “advancing the lives of Indian peoples—economically, socially and politically—so Indian Tribes in Arizona can achieve their goal of self-reliance.”

“Indian gaming benefits everybody. It benefits the surrounding communities and it benefits the health of the economy,” said National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) chairman Jonodev Chaudhuri, who elaborated on the recent Impact Study of Tribal Gaming in Arizona. AIGA released information in regard to how tribal gaming benefits not only Indian Country, but also surrounding areas.

“Being able to compile the numbers [from the Impact Study] and getting [the results] recognized at the national level helps get that point known in a larger national discussion,” said Chaudhuri.

The study indicated that tribal gaming benefits the state in various ways: nearly 15,000 Arizonans are employed in the industry (a majority are non-Native), gaming revenues fund investments in non-gaming economic development and infrastructure projects (fire stations, hospitals, etc.), $2.5 billion in estimated gross state product was generated through tribal gaming, and $1.1 billion in contributions have been made to help fund education, tourism promotion and wildlife conservation.

Eighteen tribes are currently represented by AIGA, which, according to its website, “represents 90 percent of the Indian people living on reservations in Arizona.”

The SRPMIC was represented at this year’s expo. The American Legion Post 114 Bushmasters posted the colors, an invocation was offered by SRPMIC Council Representative Tom Largo, and SRPMIC President Delbert Ray, Sr. gave a welcome address.

“Ske:g sialik. It’s good to see all of you here this morning…. In tribal gaming, it is ‘tribal’ that makes the difference. This is why this event is taking place today. Welcome to the 2015 AIGA Expo,” said President Ray. Ray continued to welcome all tribal leaders, gaming executives and attendees, inviting them all to experience the SRPMIC during their stay.

“The biggest thing that we need to do here is push this forward. There’s a lot of things that are coming our way, but on a national level we have the direction and the opportunity to voice what tribal gaming can do, not just in our own communities, but within our regions, our states and on the national level,” said Ak-Chin Indian Community and AIGA chairman Louis J. Manuel Jr.

“The most important thing we have in the AIGA is sharing and compiling information, representing one another as one voice to move forward,” said Manuel. “Those that believe in it, those that represent it, those that have built from it, and those Native communities that were able to prosper, develop and grow, [we need to] be able to show the appreciation as we move forward. So with that, these next two days, please take the time to really hear out what the message would be. It’s not just gaming, it’s tribal gaming.”

Some topics that were covered during the various sessions were gaming regulations in the new age, resort management, casino operations management, freeplay analysis strategies, leadership opportunities, and culture in the tribal government gaming industry.

Two of the more popular breakout sessions were the Regulations in a New Age: With New Offerings, Comes New Regulations and the 2016 Mock Election Debate, “Democratic vs. Republican: Who’s Best for Tribes?”

During the regulations session, some topics of discussion were the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) intents, negotiation processes, tribal regulators learning regulations, how to surpass commercial gaming, promoting and creating robust regulatory regame in Indian Country, and more. Other topics of discussion were issues, development, business vs tribal side, separation, bad regulations, collaboration, state partners, and tribal vs. nontribal gaming differences.

Panelists also mentioned that it’s most important that the regulatory partners are supported, this helps to make the process easier in Washington, D.C. Also, one major issue included a very low level of trust and terrible environments. All encouraged those in the session to collaborate, communicate and head down a healthier path.

During the mock election, four party representatives went head-to-head to explore and engage on the many political topics impacting tribes and gaming and conducted an online poll to decide which party will be the best fit for tribal gaming and Indian Country overall.

The four party representatives were Kristen Boilini, managing partner, Pivotal Policy Consulting; Kevin Allis, president, Thunderbird Strategies; Loretta Tuell, shareholder, Greenberg Traurig, LLP; and Theresa Ulmer, owner, Ulmer Consulting.

Democrats:

  • “Water is fundamental, we cannot live without it.”
  • Bipartisan approach
  • There will be a cliff in 10 years that will effect education
  • Cultural appropriations in curriculum
  • Tribes intertribal relationships will affect 5 other people
  • $28 billion industry in the only engine in Indian Country
  • Protect our environment and protect Indian lands
  • Take from Obama Administration
  • Middle class is strong
  • Republicans have no experience in Indian Country
  • Republicans are all talk and no action
  • Dream Presidential Candidate: Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (New York) and US Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont)
  • Does Donald Trump have a chance? Yes.

Republicans:

  • Water is critical
  • Bipartisan way, not partisan issue
  • Need better working relationships
  • 45 revenue shares throughout the state
  • Allow everyone right to education
  • Only 240 or 567 tribes benefit from tribal gaming
  • Diversity economies
  • Entrepreneurs allow tribes to create
  • Add choice to tribal communities
  • Focus on job training and skill development
  • Dream Presidential Candidate: a candidate from Florida
  • Does Donald Trump have a chance? No.

*Bullet points are topics of discussion and quotes from both parties.

“All matters to both [the democrats and republicans.] Vote, your voice matters,” said Allis.

Who do you think will be best for Indian Country?

Who is running for president? This year there are three Democrats and 15 Republicans running for their party’s nomination. For more information on the presidential candidates, visit www.ballotpedia.org/Presidential_candidates,_2016.

For more information about AIGA, visit www.azindiangaming.org.

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