Prairie Island responds to Star Tribune “superficial analysis” on gaming regulation

30 January 2012

Calling a recent Minneapolis Star-Tribune article about Indian gaming regulation a “superficial analysis” that “omitted key facts,” Prairie Island Indian Community President Johnny Johnson took the newspaper to task in an opinion column published today. The complete text of the piece follows:

Tribal slots and casinos get abundant review

On Jan. 22, for the second Sunday in a row, the Star Tribune published a front-page article that omitted key facts about tribal government gaming in Minnesota (“Slots get little or no state review”). The superficial analysis of tribal gaming regulation leaves readers misinformed and gives tribal gaming opponents false ammunition to unfairly criticize the gaming enterprises and to disparage state regulators.

Minnesota’s tribal casinos are among the most heavily regulated casinos in the United States — that includes private casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Multiple layers of operators and regulators provide comprehensive, redundant oversight of video slot machines and table games in tribal casinos to ensure that they are operated in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations — tribal, state and federal.

Does the fact that the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division of the Department of Public Safety has only three inspectors, who may not inspect each tribal casino annually, mean they are unregulated and operating in violation of the tribal-state compacts? Of course not.

The integrity of tribal gaming is protected at all levels, not only by tribal, state and federal regulators, but also by the vendors who supply the games and by the tribal casinos that operate them. Treasure Island Resort and Casino, like other tribal casinos, purchases video slot machines only from respected vendors licensed by the Prairie Island Indian Community Gaming Commission and the state of Minnesota. Vendors who provided noncompliant machines would jeopardize not just their tribal licensure, but their licensure at every facility in every jurisdiction where they do business.

In addition, Treasure Island only purchases video slot machines that have been approved by the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division. Before any machine is placed on the floor, it is rigorously tested and certified for compliance multiple times by independent laboratories such as Gaming Laboratories International, and also by casino employees and the tribal gaming commission. All components are sealed with security tape to prevent tampering.

Each video slot machine is constantly monitored during operation on the gaming floor and also when removed for maintenance. Treasure Island, for example, utilizes state-of-the-art surveillance and slot monitoring systems to ensure integrity of gaming operations. These sophisticated systems provide daily reporting to the gaming operation, as well as to tribal regulatory authorities, to demonstrate ongoing compliance. Any exceptions are identified and investigated, including further compliance testing, if necessary.

Two other independent layers of review — the tribe’s internal audit and its third-party external audit — will review these reports and perform their own inspections. Machine compliance is re-verified through that same multi-layer regulatory structure when machines are serviced, and machines will be returned to operation only when such compliance is demonstrated. This is all over and above what any state regulators may do.

In addition, the National Indian Gaming Commission performs its own independent reviews, audits and inspections to ensure that the gaming enterprise complies with applicable laws, regulations and minimum internal control standards. Each level of operational and regulatory oversight ensures that the video slot machines and table games are fully compliant with tribal-state compacts and with all applicable laws, regulations and internal control standards.

Our efforts are thorough and exhaustive to ensure the integrity of our games for our customers. We hold ourselves to an even higher standard than the state requires. We are very proud of our gaming enterprise and regulatory oversight, and invite Gov. Mark Dayton, Public Safety Commissioner Ramona Doh, Director of Gambling Enforcement Michele Tuchner, Sen. Mike Parry, Rep. Steve Drazkowski, Rep. Tony Cornish and any other interested legislator to come tour our gaming facility.