El Cajon, Calif.—Celebrating a quarter century, more than 450 tribal leaders, regulators, industry professionals and policy experts, gathered at the 25th annual Western Indian Gaming Conference at Sycuan Resort Casino this week for a series of speeches, workshops, and tradeshow.
The WIGC and trade show has proven to be one of the most informative conferences in Indian Country and features the annual State of the Tribal Nations Address during the General Session that kicks off the conference.
This year, the State of the Tribal Nations was delivered by newly elected CNIGA Chairman James Siva. Chairman Siva touted the positive economic aspects of tribal government gaming and cited the openings of multiple new tribal gaming facilities, as well as multiple expansions of existing facilities, including the $226 million hotel and casino expansion at the event’s host, the Sycuan Casino Resort.
Siva cited figures from the state Employment Development Department, reporting that tribal government gaming employs 66,000 Californians, an increase of 3,000 jobs from last year.
Regarding policy issues, Siva announced CNIGA support for the sports wagering initiative that was spearheaded by a coalition of tribes that seeks to legalize the practice at the state’s brickand-mortar tribal casinos as well as a licensed horse racetracks. Siva said that this initiative was a “responsible” way to expand gaming in California.
“Strong public policy and responsible government gaming are driving factors in Indian Country,” said Siva. “It is for this reason that I am honored to announce that the California Nations Indian Gaming Association has officially endorsed the tribal initiative to legalize sports wagering.”
Though there has been discussion about permitting the practice of online gaming, Siva warned that this was not wise policy. Citing fears of problem gambling proliferation, underage gambling, and threats to established brick and mortar facilities, which many rural California communities rely on as economic engines.
Chairman Siva also touched on the issue of for-profit commercial card rooms increasingly offering games that violate the California Constitution. He also noted the disparity between payments to problem gaming made by tribes versus other gaming entities in California.
“Through our compacts, tribal governments contribute $8.2 million a year to the California Department of Health for the prevention and treatment of problem gambling. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what other gaming entities in California contribute on an annual basis. The state lottery contributes only $139,000. California cardrooms pay a mere $189,000 per year. Let me state that again, $189,000 per year from an industry that is currently touting economic activity of $5 billion, yes Billion. “
In addition to the general session, attendees also attended various seminars and workshops focusing on tribal governmental issues, casino operations and security, regulation, finance, and also a series that, with state bar approval, counts toward the 25 hours of minimum continuing legal education requirements (MCLE) that the state of California requires of attorneys to complete every three years.
The WIGC took place from Tuesday February 11 through Thursday February 13 this year and is held every year in early February.
A transcript of the State of the Tribal Nations address can be obtained on the CNIGA website at: https://cniga.com/press-releases/