December 14, 2006, Indian Tribes across the nation carefully await a vital decision regarding the possible changes to their video bingo machines, which could cost the casinos millions of revenues. The changes to the machines, proposed by the National Indian Gaming Commission, were published last May. They state that there should be a gradual slow down in play, a requirement of more participating players in each game, and clear labels on video bingo machines to allow them to be easily distinguished from slot machines.
These changes have been largely opposed by the tribes. According to the Spokesman of the National Indian Gaming Commission, Shawn Pensoneau, they have taken all of their input and suggestions into consideration and what the Commission published last May was just a draft. There are certain to be some changes in the final draft of the law. The law will directly affect the Nooksack Indian Tribe in Whatcom Country. The tribe is in the process of building a new casino located north of Linden, which will contain 500 video bingo machines. Their casino in Deming currently operates 28 bingo machines.
On the other hand, the Silver Reef Casino by the Lummi Nation does not offer video bingo machines. The public hearing on the issue will end on Friday, December 22, 2006. The deadline was extended to allow more time for an economic impact study. The National Indian Gaming Commission, a regulatory agency under the U.S. Department of the Interior, wants to clarify the difference between video bingo machines and slot machines in order to avoid the confusion of both the players and the tribes. In Washington State, there are 16 tribes that operate 1,721 video bingo machines in their casinos.
With this recent development, over 70 tribes, as well as game manufacturers and government officials have sent letters to the National Indian Gaming Commission stating their opinion on the matter. Both the city of Linden and State Rep. Kelli Linville of D-Bellingham are among those who have written in support of the changes that are being drafted by the commission. Jack Louws, Mayor of Linden, said that the bingo machines' similarity to slot machines may became the cause of an increase in the bingo-type casinos that are not sanctioned by the state.
The Tribal Council Treasurer of Nooksack, Sandra Joseph, staunchly opposed the changes and said that it would greatly affect the funding for the tribe's numerous projects. The National Indian Gaming Commission has recently published a report that contains the economic impact of making those changes. Pensoneau said that their aim is not to drag down this industry.
Alan Meister from the Analysis Group Inc. said that these changes would have a "significant downside" on the gaming profits of the tribes because they would make the video bingo machines slower to play and less appealing to the players. Slower modes of play would also cut down the number of games that can be played on the machines, resulting in less income. The casinos may also have to close while they are fixing the bingo machines.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006