by Patrick B. McGuigan, editor
OKLAHOMA CITY – Sovereignty Symposium XXIX 2016, held June 8-9 at the Skirvin Hotel downtown, covered a wide range of cultural, historical and legal issues.
The symposium’s closing segment featured four concurrent panels on issues of interest to attorneys who work in Indian Country or deal regularly with issues of tribal sovereignty, including “mutual concerns of the state, federal and tribal bench,” at which this writer addressed the current state of judicial confirmation and retention nationally and in Oklahoma.
The second panel examined juvenile law, while the third studied “New Voices in Native American Literature.”
The fourth group of analysts dealt with the broad topic of “Gaming.”
Moderators included Mathew Morgan, director of gaming affairs for the Chickasaw Nation, and Nancy Green.
Participants included Jonadev Chaudhuri, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission, Ernie Stevens of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), Michael Hoenig, general counsel for NIGA, Kyle Dean (director of the center for Native American and Urban Studies at Oklahoma City University’s Meinders School of Business).
Other speakers were Michael McBride III of Crowe and Dunlevy, Elizabeth Homer of Homer Law Chartered and William Norman of Hobbs, Strauss Dean and Walker.
Additionally, Sheila Morago of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Commission (OIGA) provided copies of, a comprehensive economic analysis entitled “Statewide Economic Impacts from Oklahoma Tribal Government Gaming,” released in October 2015.
Highlights of the gaming impact study include these points, as summarized by OIGA:
• The total estimated impact on Oklahoma from gaming was nearly $6.2 billion in 2014.
* $1 billion deposited into the 1017 Fund/Education Reform Revolving Fund and Higher Learning Access Funds in the ten years since gaming was approved by a statewide vote.
* Tribal Governmental Gaming is now Oklahoma’s 19th largest employment sector.
* In 2014, Tribal Gaming* supported 23,277 jobs; 19,523 of which were full-time positions.
* Tribal gaming workers* earned $1.16 billion in wages and benefits in 2014.
* More than $264 million in State and Federal payroll taxes were paid by gaming workers
* in 2014 (*Includes ancillary and related facilities).
The study was conducted and co-authored by the Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute and KlasRobinson Q.E.D. for the OIGA. The Institute is based at Oklahoma City University. Readers can access and study the report for themselves here.
Wrapping up the latter panel was a provocative analysis of a potential dramatic increase of revenue from gaming based in Oklahoma’s Indian Country. The paper gave an overview of provisions operational under the language of the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8, widely known as “the Indian Commerce Clause.”
The analysis concludes that tribes can legally engage in Internet-based gaming serving non-U.S. citizens worldwide. The analysis argues this is allowed under provisions of the Indian Regulatory Gaming Act (IGRA), results of an arbitration proceeding, and a federal court ruling.
Author of the paper, Richard Grellner, is an Indian Country lawyer who worked on the project. He supports this reporter’s work in journalism, including at The City Sentinel newspaper.
Grellner’s thesis is condensed in his lengthy title: “A New Frontier in Indian Commerce Opening Up Exclusively in Oklahoma: Online Gaming Conducted on ‘Applicable Tribal Lands’ to Non-U.S.
Citizens in an International Market.” Originally, the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma negotiated a compact with the state of Oklahoma to provided a legal basis for Internet gaming based on tribal lands.
A contentious election for the Two Tribes as well as a controversial “spike” from the U.S. Department of the Interior followed. The Cheyenne & Arapaho have abandoned their vision for worldwide activity.
Late last year, the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma announced plans to pursue the idea.
Despite U.S. District Judge David Russell’s favorable ruling on the Internet Gaming framework, attorney G. Dean Luthey, Jr. of Gabel Gotwals criticized Grellner’s analysis, saying the U.S. Department of Interior would not be likely to allow the Iowas or any other tribe to move forward.
Grellner countered that no interested party, including Interior, has moved to appeal Russell’s ruling. NIGC Chairman Chaudhuri said, in comments at the symposium, the DOJ (Department of Justice) position is that IGRA neither denies nor affirms a tribe’s right to game outside Indian lands.