Class II, Take II

One of the dangers of being a writer is that you may not fully communicate your thoughts. In your mind you have an idea of what you want to say and how you want to say it, but fall short on the paper. Even worse is when your words come across exactly opposite of what you had intended. And that’s what happened …

I want to clarify some of the points that I made about Class II gaming in a recent article to ensure that there is no misunderstanding and that it’s not ambiguous.

It started out simply enough. It was to be a rather benign, innocuous, simple introduction to an upcoming series of articles. A view from 30,000 feet, if you will.

First of all, I should point out that I’m not a politician. You could go as far as to say that I loathe all things political. I’m not wired that way and it’s just not my cup of tea. I can’t tell you the difference between a Democrat and a Republican, partly because I’m Canadian, but also because I’m just not as tuned in to politics as others may be. I let those who have an interest and an aptitude in politics take care of the political things. I’m a geek and I like technical things. I can study a relational database, a stream of binary digits or a programming algorithm all day long. A PAR sheet can read like a good novel with a plot, twists and turns. The data sheet of a 16-bit microcontroller outlining two-level hardware interrupts … well, you get the idea.

When I began to write an article on Class II gaming, there was a certain understanding that I had. I’m no expert in Class II from a long shot. We have nothing close to that in Canada, but I’m familiar with some of the technical aspects. I was not, however, familiar with many of the political aspects nor was I aware of the continued attacks on Class II gaming, some which were ramping up when I was writing the article. I was aware—on a very rudimentary level—of the history of Class II gaming. Many of the terms that had been used were familiar to me, but many of the battles—battles fought by the veterans of tribal gaming—were not.

First and foremost, is my feeling about tribal gaming and native sovereignty. I’ve worked with numerous tribes before, spoken at a number of NIGA’s Indian Gaming conferences and have always enjoyed this. I fully support tribal gaming, and those who know me understand this.

In the article, I made a comment that Class II gaming should not exist, which raised many eyebrows. What I was thinking, but didn’t fully explain, was that I feel that Class II gaming should not have to exist.

I support native sovereignty. Period. In Canada, our native tribes are referred to as First Nations, in recognition of the first Canadian citizens. I see native tribes, in both Canada and the U.S., as sovereign. Why, then, should tribal gaming have to be negotiated and limitations be placed on the types of gaming that can and cannot exist on tribal land? Perhaps I’m a bit naive, but I just don’t follow this. As sovereign nations, there should be no limitations on what happens on sovereign land.

For political reasons that I’m not going to understand, we have Class II gaming. Should it disappear? Absolutely not. Since it’s in place, it should not continue to be attacked. If anything, the rights of tribes under Class II gaming should be expanded upon, not further restricted.

I had stated that Class II gaming needed to be regulated—that the games had to be fair and proper. I also stated that this was the case. I was not suggesting that there had been any indication that tribal gaming was not properly regulated or operated. Both the manufacturers and the tribes have always taken great strides to ensure that Class II gaming, in all aspects, was properly run. The integrity of Class II gaming is, in my opinion, without question. The tribes that I have worked with go beyond due diligence in the operation and auditing of the bingo games. The men and women are highly skilled, intelligent and dedicated to giving 110 percent. I doubt that you could find anywhere that gaming was more regulated or operated in a more stringent manner. And in my experience, I have never known the integrity of Class II gaming to be brought into question.

Technically, Class II gaming has led the way in central determination and server-based technology for years. There was a time when the various Class II systems were disparate—a cashout ticket from one game manufacturer could not be read by another. This was an effective system, but not entirely efficient. I have seen this and was referring to this in the technological discussion. As I have since learned, however, this would be the rare instance in Class II now. With the evolution of Class II gaming and continued work by manufacturers, systems can now talk to each other and make a seamless experience for the patrons. The constant evolution of Class II hardware and technology has been leading-edge, and there are lessons that Class III gaming solutions can take from the Class II industry. What the Class III industry is working toward—think of networked gaming—Class II has been doing for years.

But what about those who continue to try to fight Class II gaming, who would like to see it eroded or removed altogether? I was making reference to this when I spoke about how some people see Class II devices as “slot machines.” Such a comparison is erroneous, as I was explaining, and gave my reasons why they were not “slot machines.” Class II devices, in a tribal bingo hall, are bingo games. There are bingo tickets shown on the devices and as the game progresses, bingo balls are displayed as they are drawn. Awards are paid for matching patterns to the game and everything else is just for amusement. Some people questioned my use of the terms “charade” and “smoke and mirrors.” For those people who compare Class II bingo games to “slot machines,” that is what it is—their arguments are based upon smoke and mirrors. They are trying to declare the bingo games as “slot machines” without actually investigating what the games really are. It’s a dangerous act and draws erroneous conclusions. If you think they are “slot machines,” you are mistaken. They are not.

The Class II games are bingo. Look inside the operation of the machines and the technology used for these games. It’s bingo plain and simple. They should not be called “slot machines,” or compared to slot machines.

In the end, it’s always the people that you care about that you end up offending. In this case, the tribal operators, regulators, manufacturers—the people who are so dedicated and so diligently working to provide tribal gaming.

The battle for tribal gaming, Class II and native rights has been long and difficult. Much more than even I understand. And my intention was to show support for Class II.

For the record, I’m a supporter and an advocate for tribal gaming and native sovereignty. I always have been and always will be.

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