Regulatory Updates

Protecting Tribal Sovereignty

Anthony Miranda
Anthony Miranda

Anthony Miranda, Chairman
California Nations Indian Gaming Association

Tribal government gaming continues to face a number of challenges on a variety of fronts. From the deep recesses of offices in Washington, D.C. to the California ballot box, the sovereign rights of tribes to have gaming on their lands is always being threatened.

At the federal level, the National Indian Gaming Commission is attempting to undertake a unilateral creation of regulations relating to Class II gaming devices, definitions, classifications, and technical and minimum internal control standards.

Through the NIGC's Minimum Internal Control Standards (MICS) advisory committee the tribes, the federal government and representatives from the gaming industry have been successful in drafting updated technical standards and MICS. Within these documents Class II games are thoroughly defined. Now, the NIGC is attempting to unilaterally redefine these machines, which is an unnecessary divergence from the MICA and violates the intent of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Though the proposed regulations were first published in October, concern over the impact to tribes was so great the NIGC announced that they were extending the comment period.

On the state front, a handful of commercial gaming interests including a Las Vegas casino owner, two wealthy gaming tribes, and a single labor union, have qualified four separate referenda for the February 5 California ballot which seek to overturn the Legislature's ratification of tribal-state gaming compacts signed by four individual tribal governments and the State of California.

The voters of California will soon vote on this particular issue. No matter the outcome, this effort is illustrative of continued concerted attacks, seemingly a new one every year, by opponents of tribal government gaming. Their latest effort is particularly deceptive and attempts to undermine the
government-to-government process in which the IndianGaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was built. For years, tribes across the country have followed the compacting rules mandated by Congress when they passed IGRA nearly 20 years ago. Those rules call for gaming agreements to be signed between the governor and the tribes. Now, a handful of special interests are trying to change this long standing process for their own financial benefit. It should be made clear that CNIGA does not take positions on compacts negotiated and signed on a sovereign-to-sovereign basis, however we object to special interests subverting well-established procedures.

The efforts by these outside third parties who have their own financial or political agendas is a direct challenge to the sovereign rights of all tribes, whether they have gaming operations or not. CNIGA views these efforts as a direct assault on the sovereign right of all tribal governments throughout the country to negotiate gaming compacts on a government-to-government basis.

Unfortunately attacks like this do not come as a surprise. Tribes have endured years of attacks from various opponents through ballot initiatives, referenda, or legislative attacks. It seems as if opponents of tribal governments will stop at nothing until they take everything of value. We, as leaders, must always remember that the protection of our rights as sovereign governments, recognized under the United States Constitution, is of paramount importance.

I would like to thank the CNIGA member tribes, associate members and industry partners who continue to support the association. Without your dedicated support we would not be able to engage in the critical task of protecting and preserving tribal sovereign rights to have gaming on our lands. Just as our ancestors sacrifice, each of us must sacrifice to protect the future - for our children and the next seven generations.

Anthony Miranda is Chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA). He can be reached by calling (916) 448-8706 or email For more information on CNIGA visit