The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), the federal agency charged with oversight of gaming on Indian lands, has warned the County of San Diego that its recent debt collection effort against the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel could violate the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).
Due to the recession and financial condition of its casino, the tribe has been unable to meet the agreed payment schedule under an arbitrated settlement reached in 2010. In its collections effort against the tribe, the county has attempted to levy against the tribal casino’s operating accounts. In a letter yesterday to County Attorney Thomas Bunton, the NIGC cautioned the county that seizure of the tribal casino’s operating monies would violate Indian gaming laws.
The NIGC explained that collection of the casino’s operating monies would amount to management of the tribe’s casino and that “IGRA prohibits any party other than an Indian tribe from managing a tribal gaming facility without an approved management contract. 25 U.S.C. §2711.” Management without a management contract expressly approved by the Chairperson of the NIGC is illegal and could result in the voiding of the intergovernmental agreement under which the county is seeking $3 million.
This warning comes on the heels of the county’s attempt last month to attach the tribe’s non-gaming financial accounts—accounts that contain federal grant monies necessary to the operation of the tribal government and the provision of critical governmental services to the tribe’s membership.
“The county has decided not to play by the rules. In spite of the financial pressure we’ve been under, we have not laid off a single worker,” said Tribal Chaiman Virgil Perez. “You would think the county would put some value on those jobs. Instead, they’re apparently trying to put us out of business, and I am not going to let that happen.”