The Indian Gaming Association held their annual Mid-Year Conference at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, CT, September 12-14, 2023. The conference focused on the current gaming industry landscape, critical legislative updates, and honoring legendary Indian Country leaders.
In his opening remarks, Ernie Stevens, Jr., Chairman of the Indian Gaming Association (IGA), said, “It is always such a majestic experience to visit the Foxwood’s properties. I have been coming here for over thirty years, and to see the continued advancements of their tribal gaming properties is a significant tribute to the success of our industry.”
While the three-day event hosted an array of active topics and presenters on all aspects of the Indian gaming industry, it was the meeting with the member tribes of IGA that brought to the forefront the current issue to the discussion.
“It is great to be together again because we have much to celebrate and new challenges and opportunities to address as we continue our work to protect tribal sovereignty and strengthen Native communities,” said Stevens. “This year has been busy for the Indian Gaming Association. The Indian gaming industry has accomplished so much because of the tireless work of tribal leaders, gaming professionals, and our outstanding gaming operations, from the regulators and commissioner to the workers on the gaming floor. Because of that, we have excellent industry numbers to share.”
In 2022, Indian gaming revenues topped $43 billion and $5.4 billion in ancillary revenues, bringing the total revenue for 2022 to $48.4 billion.
Jason Giles, Executive Director of IGA, provided the legislative landscape update, with a focused discussion on the impending potential of a looming government shutdown and discussions on other current issues impacting tribes.
Federal updates were presented by U.S. Treasurer, Chief Lynn Malerba of the Mohegan Tribe, who presented Chairman Stevens with a $1 bill, one of the first with her signature as Treasurer. National Indian Gaming Commission Chairman Sequoyah Simermeyer shared regulatory updates related to gaming. Paula Hart, Director of the Office of Indian Gaming, Department of Interior, spoke at length of her office’s commitment to revising the 25 CFR 293 regulation on Class III Tribal-State Gaming Compacts.
The afternoon session included a meeting of IGA and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Tribal Leaders Task Force. An audience of tribal leaders, advocates, and representatives came together to discuss the many challenges facing Indian Country. The IGA/NCAI Task Force is bringing the two largest national tribal organizations together to unite Indian Country in the fight to protect tribal sovereignty and sacred treaty rights. A primary mission of the Task Force is to protect the inherent right of tribal governments to conduct gaming in order to support their communities and safeguard Native homelands.
The Indian Gaming Association also hosted the John Kieffer Sovereignty Award luncheon, this year honoring Denise Harvey, Councilwoman of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. Named in honor of the late John Kieffer of the Spokane Tribe of Indians, recipients of this prestigious award are chosen based on their embodiment of IGA’s mission and purpose. Kieffer was a dedicated member of the IGA Executive Committee and an advocate for Indian self-determination and tribal sovereignty. Upon accepting the award, Harvey said, “This is quite an honor. As tribal leaders, we all must adjust to wearing many hats, whether it be Indian gaming, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the Violence Against Women Act, housing, and so on. We all have a huge responsibility to serve our people, which I take very seriously because it is not only for our communities and the people we serve, but for all of our Indian people. I feel fortunate to have the honor of serving on the national level at the Indian Gaming Association.”
A wide array of panel discussions were presented during the Mid-year conference, including: Strategies for Thriving in a Changing Landscape; Reinventing the Casino Experience: Attracting the Next Generation of Gamers; New Horizons: The Importance of Entrepreneurship in Tribal Gaming; Understanding Tribal Sovereignty and Culture; Navigating Tribal Regulations and Procurement Processes; Customized Solutions for Tribal Casinos; Supreme Stakes: How The Courts Are Influencing Tribal Sports Betting; Innovative Marketing Strategies – Attracting and Retaining Customers in the Tribal and Commercial Space; and Diversifying Online: Real Money Gaming And Beyond.
“This has been a phenomenal week for the IGA at the Mashantucket Pequot Nation,” said Chairman Stevens. “From the great gathering of our tribal leaders from all over the country and gaming industry experts at Mid-Year to the welcoming atmosphere of the Foxwoods Resorts, it reminds me of how honored and humbling it is to serve the Indian
Gaming Association and stand with such great leaders in Indian Country.”
The next Indian Gaming gathering is the 2024 Indian Gaming Tradeshow and Convention, April 8-11, at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA.
For more information about the Indian Gaming Association, visit www.indiangaming.org.