Casino Enterprise Management published an article in its July 2010 issue that sparked considerable debate and controversy. The article appeared on page 100 and was titled “Class II: In a Class by Itself.” In hindsight, there are articles that I wish wouldn’t have gone to print. This is one of them. It stated that Class II gaming should not exist and it also made other poorly conceived statements. The article played fast and loose with terms that have become radioactive on the legal battle ground of Class II gaming. Terms such as facsimile, aid, slot and jackpot all have specific meanings in the Class II arena and they are not open to interpretation. With respect to the Class II debate, these definitions are cut and dried. Misnomers may be excusable for those outside of our industry, but we needed to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and regrettably we did not in this case.
About nine months ago I assigned CEM’s Technology Editor John Wilson the task of writing a series of articles addressing Class II gaming. What I didn’t take into account was the fact Wilson doesn’t live in the United States; he’s Canadian. He isn’t naturally abridged of the legal and legislative wrangling on the subject. He’s a technical guy, a techie if you will. I should have known better as I am fully aware of the lengthy and contentious battles that have been fought on and around Class II gaming, but didn’t think of it at the time. That’s not an excuse; it’s my mistake.
Wilson is one of the more technically astute persons I know. He understands how systems and networks are designed and how they operate. I would be fair in saying he knows game math as well if not better than anyone. He is not is a lawyer or a politician, nor would he want to be. The legal or legislative wrangling that occurs around gaming issues is just not his cup of tea. Knowing this, I was wrong to send him down this path without first providing a lengthy explanation of what lay before him.
Wilson’s unfortunate statement that Class II gaming should not exist would have been better put as, Class II gaming shouldn’t have to exist. That would be much more in line with his sentiments. He finds it strange that after hundreds of years of abuse toward tribes, the very perpetrator of the wrong doing (state and federal governments) should have any say on what goes on sovereign tribal government land.
Many gaming industry members around the world are confused by some of the issues that surround tribal gaming. This confusion isn’t because tribal gaming is shadowy. It’s not; in fact it’s the most heavily regulated form of gaming in the United States. The confusion is attributable to the web of legal maneuvers put forth by the state and federal governments in their attempt to tap into gaming revenues earned by tribes on their sovereign lands. In the end, it’s about money—other people’s money as it always is.
While Wilson’s belief bears merit, the way he stated it left it open for misinterpretation. It’s a complex subject that’s home lies in the intertwined world between morality, stark reality and the legal system. What the tribes have is sovereignty, but it doesn’t come without costs. Though unfairly, they have and will continue to have to fight to protect their rights against the infinite challenges to them. Once tribal government gaming operations became profitable, the state and federal governments weren’t far behind them with open hands.
Class II gaming is one of three designated classes of gaming that occurs in tribal government lands. It was created when congress placed into law the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in 1988 after the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court case Cabazon v. State of California outcome that ruled that as sovereign political entities, tribes could operate gaming free of state regulation. While a victory for tribes, the ruling became a catalyst for what has become a constant battle for tribes in protecting their sovereign rights.
Soon after the passage of IGRA, states began lobbying the federal government to allow states to regulate Indian gaming. States also wanted to be able to tax revenues gained by Indian gaming. Tribes fought the states in an effort both to maintain tribal sovereignty and to protect Indian gaming revenues to support economic development.
In the end, we displayed poor judgment and a lack of sensitivity, and for that I sincerely apologize. It was not our intent to be so, and we’re not too proud to admit it when we get it wrong.
Casino Enterprise Management