IGA 2024: Indian Gaming Tradeshow and Convention Celebrates Tribal Government Gaming Accomplishments

IGA_Anaheim 2024

The Indian Gaming Tradeshow and Convention concluded after almost a whole week of events and celebrations focused on the Indian gaming industry, its professionals, industry experts, tribal leadership, and gaming employees at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA.

On Sunday, April 7, the Board of Directors Meeting, which took place at the Anaheim Hilton, was conducted to address significant discussions and decisions on critical tribal matters affecting Indian gaming and tribal issues nationwide.

IGA once again proudly hosted the Chairman’s Golf Classic on April 8th to advance tribal education this year to support the remarkable initiatives of the Native Forward Scholars Fund, a recognized leader in empowering American Indian and Alaska Native students through higher education scholarships. The sold-out Chairman’s golf tournament is held at the landmark Tustin Ranch Golf Club near Anaheim.

At the Convention Center, a full day of conference sessions took place, focusing on topics related to Class II gaming, including the history, business, and regulation of Class II gaming. The Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM) and the University of Phoenix sponsored the sessions. The day concluded with a case study with the Pokagon Band Gaming Commission and the Four Winds Casino. Attendees ended the day with the official Chairman’s Welcome Reception at the House of Blues in Anaheim.

The DigitalPlay Summit, a key highlight of this year’s Indian gaming conference, showcased iGaming and sports betting exhibits, along with engaging content sessions on the show floor. This event brought together professionals from the sports betting and gaming sector to collaboratively influence the future landscape of the North American online gambling market.

Tuesday’s agenda included the IGA membership meeting, which included the keynote address from special guest Peggy Flanagan, Lt. Governor of Minnesota. She underscored the importance of collaboration and support among Native American communities and the states, and shared the importance of the Native vote in the upcoming elections.

IGA Chairman Ernest L. Stevens, Jr. presented the State of the Gaming Industry address to the member tribes. He shared, “Thanks to the diligent work of Indian Country, I proudly report that the state of the Indian gaming industry is powerful.”

The IGA Economic Impact report for fiscal year 2023 projects that tribal gaming revenues reached $48 billion, a $3 billion increase from 2022. Additionally, the reports show that the tribal government gaming industry drew in $5.1 billion in ancillary revenues from hotels, food, beverages, and entertainment. Chairman Stevens responded, “Indian gaming today remains the most successful economic development tool for the industry. Our success stems from the work our tribal leaders do day in and day out – the tribal leaders who guide our industry and the casino employees, management professionals, and state of the industry regulators who make the engine run every day.”

Tribal leaders then engaged in a significant strategy discussion on the next steps for the NCAI-IGA Taskforce, led by Co-Chairs Ernie Stevens Jr. and Mark Macarro, President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).

In the afternoon membership meeting, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Tribal Council and members of their business council presented IGA with a check, contributing to the organization’s mission of representation in Washington, DC.

The Indian Gaming Association held annual elections for the Vice-Chairman and Treasurer positions. Vice Chairman David Z. Bean was re-elected, and Justin Barrett was selected as the IGA Treasurer.

The Chairman’s Leadership Awards and Luncheon were particularly memorable. They honored Melanie Benjamin of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians for her exceptional leadership and contributions to Indian Country. She announced earlier this year that she would not be seeking another term in office and has distinguished herself in leading the nearly 5,000-member Ojibwe nation for over two decades.

“Today we welcome one of the most prestigious leaders in Indian Country, Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin,” said Stevens. “She has 25 years of leadership experience and is one of the most prominent and influential Indian Country Women Warriors. Melanie will leave her leadership role, but I guarantee she won’t go far.”

The Indian Gaming Tradeshow and Convention also hosted the Seminar Institute Training and a full day of conference sessions.

On Tuesday evening of Indian Gaming 2024, the Rick Hill-Tim Wapato Sovereign Warrior Award Celebration highlighted a champion for tribal sovereignty and Indian Country. Former United States Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell received the prestigious Sovereign Warrior Award. The honor, dedicated to the memory of tribal gaming legends Tim Wapato and Rick Hill, recognized Senator Campbell’s relentless dedication to Indian Country.

Despite his absence at the event, Senator Campbell joined via Zoom to accept the accolade. Stevens praised Campbell’s unwavering leadership and support for Indian Country throughout his congressional tenure. He underscored Campbell’s empowering influence on Native communities, highlighting the transformative power of self-advocacy and sovereignty.

“Senator Campbell always stood strong behind Indian Country,” said Stevens. “He taught me and so many others that you have to walk on your own and that he can’t do the job for you. He empowered Indian people to advocate for themselves and to carry the message on their own.”

On Wednesday, the ever-popular tradeshow ribbon-cutting event kicked off with tribal leaders and guests and was followed by the official opening of the Indian Gaming Tradeshow.

“The success of this year’s event is because of our industry’s remarkable perseverance and resiliency,” said Stevens. “It was phenomenal to be together again because we have much to celebrate. This week, we rolled up our sleeves addressing new challenges and opportunities, continuing our work to protect tribal sovereignty and strengthen Native communities.”

The Indian Gaming Association’s Mid-Year Conference & Expo will be held September 16-18 at Tulalip Resort Casino in Tulalip, WA. For more information, visit www.indiangamingtradeshow.com.