Indian gaming is tightly regulated at the federal, state, and tribal levels. In fact, it is regulated at more levels than any other form of gaming in the country. The enactment of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in 1988 set the framework that governs Indian gaming to this day, and provided a procedure for Indian tribes and states to use in determining how gaming is regulated on tribal lands.
IGRA requires the establishment of an independent regulatory authority to be charged with oversight and enforcement of gaming regulatory matters. The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe established the Gaming Regulatory Authority (GRA) with the power and duty to regulate Gaming matters for the Band.
Prior to 1987, there was much conflict between Indian tribes and states regarding who held jurisdictional authority over gaming activity on Indian reservations.
In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Indian tribes have inherent sovereign powers to regulate gaming on their own lands. The court also held that a state has no power to interfere with any form of Indian gaming unless all such gaming is criminally prohibited in that state. Many states approached Congress after this decision, seeking federal law to provide for some state input into Indian gaming. The result was the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in 1988.
IGRA is the jurisdictional framework that governs Indian gaming. Its original purpose was to permit Indian gaming as a way of promoting economic development, self-sufficiency, and strong tribal governments.
Regulation of Indian gaming occurs at three levels:
It begins at the tribal level with the Tribal Regulatory Authority.
It is defined by an arms-length agreement called a compact between each tribe and the state. The State of Minnesota (Department of Public Safety and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) is responsible for regulation in accordance with the compacts.
It is conducted by the following agencies listed under federal oversight:
National Indian Gaming Commission
U.S. Department of the Interior (Bureau of Indian Affairs)
U.S. Department of Justice (Federal Bureau of Investigation)
U.S. Department of the Treasury (Internal Revenue Service)
IGRA established a procedure for tribes and states to negotiate agreements called compacts. These compacts determine how certain types of gaming are regulated on Indian lands.
IGRA states that:
States are not allowed to tax Indian gaming facilities.
Gaming is only allowed on tribal lands.
Indian Gaming in Minnesota
Under IGRA, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe negotiated two compacts with the State of Minnesota governing blackjack and video games of chance. These compacts allow state background investigations of gaming employees and inspections of gaming facilities.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety is charged with ensuring that the games played at the state’s tribal casinos are conducted in compliance with the standards set forth in the compacts. The Band contributes money each year to the Department of Public Safety to offset the state’s gaming regulatory costs.
The Band operates two casinos — Grand Casino Mille Lacs, which opened in 1991, and Grand Casino Hinckley, which opened in 1992 — in full compliance with IGRA and the compacts.
All Associates are subject to comprehensive background checks and are issued licenses that demonstrate that they are in compliance with the Band’s Gaming Regulatory Act, the applicable federal regulations, and the compacts with the State of Minnesota.
When Minnesota law changed in 2001 to allow poker at Canterbury Park, the law also enabled tribal casinos to legally begin poker operations. Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Grand Casino Hinckley began offering poker in 2004.
In Minnesota, a compact can be renegotiated only if the state and the particular tribe both agree to the change(s). It cannot be altered by one party alone.
The compacts are intended to provide consistency and stability for the tribes and the state in determining future gaming policy.
Gaming represents the first effective economic development tool that many American Indian tribes have had in centuries. The Mille Lacs Band uses its casino revenues to improve life for its members and neighbors in East Central Minnesota.