State of the Tribal Nations Address Given at the 26th Western Indian Gaming Conference

Press Release
For Immediate Release

Contact: James May
(916) 754-7540

State of the Tribal Nations Address Given at the 26th Western Indian Gaming Conference

February 14, 2023

El Cajon, Calif.— Back after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 450 tribal leaders, regulators, industry professionals and policy experts, gathered at the 26th annual Western Indian Gaming Conference at Sycuan Resort Casino this week for a series of speeches, workshops, and tradeshow.

The WIGC and trade show has proven to be one of the most informative conferences in Indian Country and features the annual State of the Tribal Nations Address during the General Session that kicks off the conference.

This year, the State of the Tribal Nations was delivered by CNIGA Chairman James Siva. A full transcription of which can be obtained on the CNIGA website at Chairman Siva touted the resilience of tribal government gaming through the dark times of the pandemic and cited the openings of multiple new tribal gaming facilities as evidence of the resilience of the tribal government gaming industry.

Siva cited figures from the state Employment Development Department, reporting that tribal government gaming employs 63,000 Californians, an increase of 6,000 jobs from last year, making tribes, collectively, a larger state employer than the telecommunications sector.

Regarding policy issues, Siva noted the defeat of Proposition 27, which was largely spearheaded by tribes. That initiative sought to give out-of-state commercial gaming interests control over online sports wagering in California.
Of the lopsided defeat of Proposition 27, Chairman Siva said, “This initiative suffered one of the widest defeats in California history and should serve as a cautionary tale to those that attempt to enter the California gaming market without working directly with tribes.”

Among the other issues cited by Chairman Siva, was a state audit released last August that showed the state of California has badly mismanaged the Indian Gaming Special Distribution Fund, which is a fund into which many gaming tribes must pay. Chairman Siva quoted the acting State Auditor, Michael Tilden, “(In the state audit) of the management and use of the Indian Gaming Special Distribution Fund, we determined that the state has not effectively managed the distribution fund, and it has allowed the fund to accumulate an excessive reserve.”

Recent federal court decisions that found the state of California had overstepped its bounds by insisting that certain provisions be placed into tribal/ state gaming compacts. Specifically, the court found the state’s demands were in violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Chairman Siva described the actions of a court-appointed mediator in the case as a “light at the end of this very long tunnel.” The mediator recently selected a compact most favorable to the tribal position, eliminating several provisions insisted upon by the state as being in violation of IGRA.

Chairman Siva also touched on the issue of for-profit commercial card rooms increasingly offering games that violate the California Constitution, and the potential devasting effects of the expiration of decades-long moratorium on their expansion.
He announced CNIGA’s support of the recently introduced AB 341 (Ramos), legislation that would restore the moratorium for decades to come.

In addition to the general session, attendees also attended various seminars and workshops focusing on tribal governmental issues, casino operations and security, regulation, finance, and also a series that, with state bar approval, counts toward the 25 hours of minimum continuing legal education requirements (MCLE) that the state of California requires of attorneys to complete every three years.

The WIGC took place from Tuesday February 14 through Thursday February 16 this year and is held every year in February.

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About CNIGA:
The California Nations Indian Gaming Association is a non-profit association comprised of federally recognized tribal governments dedicated to the protection of tribal sovereignty and the inherent right of tribes to have gaming on Indian lands.

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