Executive Director

Susan A. Jensen

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Susan Jensen has served numerous roles for CNIGA since she was hired as the Association’s first full-time staff member in May of 1998.  During her tenure she has served as the PR Coordinator, Director of Communications, and Deputy Director of Operations.  Recently she was promoted to her current position as Executive Director.  Under her current role, Jensen is responsible for the overall management and implementation of CNIGA departmental, project and programmatic goals and objectives.  Jensen serves as a spokesperson for the Association with the media, other governments, and the public at large.

Jensen joined CNIGA to assist the organization’s communications efforts surrounding the Proposition 5 campaign the first ballot initiative that sought to legally affirm tribal government gaming in California.  Since that time Jensen has, through her staff role at CNIGA, assisted in a number of major events in California tribal gaming. She helped coordinate the meetings that led to the 1999 tribal/ state compacts that were signed by 61 tribes.  Jensen has overseen many communications efforts surrounding CNIGA positions on various issues as well as the publication of CNIGA information and written materials, including coordination and statewide dissemination of an annual economic impact study on tribal gaming.

For the past 18 years, Jensen has helped manage the annual Western Indian Gaming Conference, California’s premier gaming conference that is a forum for tribal and industry leaders.

Prior to joining CNIGA Jensen worked in life insurance for Manulife Financial.  She is a graduate of California State University, Sacramento and lives in Sacramento.


Deputy Director 

Ambar Mohammed

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As deputy director, Ms. Mohammed oversees member relations and services and implements association programs. Prior to joining CNIGA, Ms. Mohammed worked directly for the Colusa Indian Community Council as their Director of Executive Affairs, representing the Tribe in the community and supporting the members of the Executive Committee. She was responsible for day to day management and organization of the council operations and keeping the Executive Board and Committee abreast on all political, financial, and internal aspects of the tribe’s eleven business entities. Mohammed also serves as the lead administrator for the Tribal State Compact Steering Committee, where she manages an organization of 27 members.

Ms. Mohamed earned her Bachelor of Arts in political science from University of California Davis and a paralegal certificate from Evergreen Valley College.

Industry Relations Specialist

James May

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James May is the Industry Relations Specialist for CNIGA. Previously, May had worked at CNIGA as media specialist between 2006 and 2010. Prior to that, he was the West Coast staff writer for Indian Country Today for five and a half years where he covered a variety of issues affecting Indian Country.  

Between his stints at CNIGA, May worked at the State Capitol and served as communications director for two members of the state Assembly and later served in the communications department in the Speaker’s Office of Member Services.  He also worked for Phil Giarrizzo Campaign Consultants as a researcher and special projects coordinator.

May is a graduate of CSU, Chico and has an MA from CSU, Sacramento.

Business Manager/Executive Assistant

Mary Pontius

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Mary Pontius, a native of Compton, California, has served on CNIGA staff since 2007. She is responsible for the day-to-day office operations. Pontius has extensive experience managing office affairs in the business and non-profit sector.  Before coming to CNIGA, she worked for 27 years with wholesale paper company Unisource in its credit department where she eventually became a manager.  She lives in the Sacramento area with her husband.


Articles of Incorporation

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA), founded in 1988, is a non-profit organization comprised of federally-recognized tribal governments. CNIGA is dedicated to the purpose of protecting Indian gaming on federally-recognized Indian lands. It acts as a planning and coordinating agency for legislative, policy, legal and communications efforts on behalf of its members and serves as an industry forum for information and resources.

As stated in the CNIGA Articles of Incorporation, the specific purposes of the organization are to promote, protect and preserve the general welfare and interests of Indian tribes through the development of sound policies and practices with respect to the conduct of gaming activities in Indian country, to assist Indian tribes and the federal government by providing technical assistance relating to the Indian gaming industry wherever such assistance may benefit the common interests of the association members and the Indian gaming community generally, to disseminate information to the Indian gaming community, the federal and state governments and the general public on issues related to the conduct of gaming in Indian country, to preserve and protect the integrity of gaming conducted in Indian country and to maintain, protect and advocate Indian tribal sovereignty.

In 1987 the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the inherent right of Indian tribes to offer gaming on tribal lands (California v. Cabazon). The following year Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (“IGRA”) which created the statutory framework for tribal governments to engage in gaming as a means of promoting tribal economic development, self-sufficiency, and strong tribal governments (Please see History of Tribal Gaming in CA for additional information). The IGRA requires Indian nations to negotiate with states concerning gaming to be played (scope of games), and regulation (level of regulation) while it ensures that tribal governments are the sole owners and primary beneficiaries of Indian gaming, and legislatively recognizes tribal gaming as a way of promoting economic development for tribes.

On September 10, 1999, fifty-eight (58) tribal governments signed tribal-state gaming compacts with the state of California. Since September, three additional tribes have signed tribal-state gaming compacts bring the total number of compacts in California to sixty-one (61). Included in the compacts are provisions for revenue sharing with non-gaming tribes, environmental protections, and labor agreements. As a result, California Indian tribes, once impoverished and dependent on government subsidies, are finding prosperity and self-sufficiency through tribal gaming.

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CNIGA’s bylaws, outlining the Association’s purpose and organizational structure, can be found by clicking link below.

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Contact Us


2150 River Plaza Drive
Suite 120
Sacramento, CA 95833





Membership Application

want to become a member?

CNIGA is the largest association of tribal governments dedicated to the protection of the inherent right to have gaming on tribal lands. Join leaders from throughout the country to discuss issues facing tribes on a state and federal level. For more information, download the application or contact Ambar Mohammed at

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