Monday, January 30, 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 reverified through that same multilayer 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.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has responded to a recent story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune claiming that lax state regulation means its casinos have been unregulated. Here is the complete text of the tribe's response, published on Friday, January 27 on the news website

Tribal gaming at the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community:
A heavily regulated game

Recent print news articles suggest the biggest tribal casinos in the state, including Mystic Lake Casino Hotel operated by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, have gone years without inspections to validate the integrity of slots and table games. Unfortunately, this information is factually incorrect and misleading.

These misleading stories report that the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the state regulator with the authority to inspect tribal casinos under the Tribal-State Compacts, is lagging in its responsibility to inspect casinos. The stories are misleading because they imply that tribal casinos aren’t regulated. Such an implication misrepresents the high level of regulatory compliance that tribal casinos are subject to on a continuing basis, regardless of the activity of state regulators.

The fact is that the Mystic Lake and Little Six Casino properties of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community are two of the most highly regulated operations in Minnesota and across the United States. For these regulatory efforts, Mystic Lake and Little Six Casinos are recognized as the gold standard for regulatory compliance throughout Indian Country.

Mystic Lake Casino, Little Six Casino and other Indian casinos in Minnesota are regulated by multiple entities other than the State of Minnesota. This includes the National Indian Gaming Commission, their respective tribal gaming commissions, internal compliance departments, and independent testing laboratories. The State of Minnesota does not have the primary regulatory authority over these federally authorized gaming operations.

Through the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), an independent federal regulatory agency within the Department of Interior, Minimum Internal Control Standards have been promulgated setting forth the regulatory standards to be complied with by all Tribes in the conduct of gaming. The NIGC conducts independent regulatory inspections; Mystic Lake Casino and Little Six Casino were subject to three on-site inspections in 2011 by the NIGC, with no problems or exceptions noted.

In addition to NIGC regulatory oversight, the Tribal governments have their own gaming commissions, responsible for regulatory oversight. Mystic Lake Casino and Little Six Casino are subject to the regulatory oversight of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Gaming Commission, an independent gaming regulatory entity of the tribal government that employs 27 experienced regulators.

The sole responsibility of the Gaming Commission and its staff is to regulate and inspect gaming operations to ensure the integrity of slots and table games, and compliance with all federal, state and tribal regulatory standards. At Mystic Lake and Little Six Casinos, various Gaming Commission staff are on-site daily performing inspections of all gaming operations.

At Tribal casinos, the game program software in all slot machines is required to be certified by an independent gaming test laboratory. It is through such testing and certification that there are assurances the slot machines comply with the standards of the Tribal/State Compacts and other promulgated regulatory standards regarding operations and payout percentages.

The Gaming Commission staff regulating Mystic Lake and Little Six Casinos randomly inspects 30 percent of all slot machines yearly to verify the validity and integrity of the game software programs. Furthermore, with any new game or a program change to an existing game, prior to such games being placed into play, the Gaming Commission inspects the games and verifies the software.

In addition to the role of the Gaming Commission, within the operations of Mystic Lake Casino and Little Six Casino is the existence of a Compliance division that operates independently of management and reports directly to the Board of Directors. Within Compliance, the departments of Internal Audit, Surveillance, and Security are entrusted to monitor and enforce regulations and operating standards as they pertain to the conduct of gaming.

Internal Audit with a staff of 10, comprising over 90 years of Internal Audit experience and nearly 140 years of gaming experience, independently examines and verifies slot and table game procedures to ensure on-going regulatory compliance. This regulatory review includes the independent inspection of 10 percent of all slot machines yearly. Additionally, Internal Audit conducts monthly inventory inspections of game program chips.

Between the Gaming Commission and Internal Audit, 40 percent of slot machines are inspected yearly; in addition to on-going inspections of table games. In contrast, the Star Tribune article mentions the State of Wisconsin’s Division of Gaming uses 15 staff members to inspect 10 percent of machines and observe table games activities for five days at each Indian casino in Wisconsin every 18 months.

To further complement the compliance regulatory activities of the operations at Mystic Lake Casino and Little Six Casino is the Surveillance department. With more than 50 trained specialists, the Surveillance Department monitors slot and table gaming activity with the latest technology; 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year.

Surveillance staff do not just watch cameras; they are highly skilled and trained in all casino operations and procedures to identify incidents of wrongdoing and ensure compliance with regulations. Such specialized skills include being certified card counters, in an effort to detect cheat and scam attempts regarding the play of blackjack.

The regulatory efforts in place at Mystic Lake Casino and Little Six Casino have been successful in identifying and apprehending individuals, which have attempted to perpetrate actions to defraud or cheat gaming operations. In these instances, actions are taken to prosecute these individuals to the fullest extent of the law. Any efforts to adversely affect the integrity of gaming will not be tolerated.

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, as do other Tribal governments, recognizes that gaming is the economic engine that allows for the funding of the goods, services, and other activities supporting their members and communities. It is further recognized that for gaming to prosper, the highest standards of integrity must be maintained by the Tribes.

To maintain integrity, and to perpetuate public trust and confidence in Tribal gaming, the Tribes comply with, and have invested in resources, enacted regulatory standards and developed compliance programs that far exceed any state regulatory program. While the State of Minnesota may need to re-focus its regulatory authority under the Tribal-State compacts, the fact is that the Mystic Lake and Little Six Casinos operated by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community are highly regulated. The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is recognized throughout the gaming industry for its commitment to regulatory compliance and operating gaming within the highest standards of integrity. Any suggestion to the contrary is not based in fact.