Bill to Promote Safety on Indian Casino Reservations Introduced as Tribal Operators Forced to Defend IGRA

Posted on: October 8, 2017, 10:00h. 

Last updated on: October 8, 2017, 10:00h.

The US Senate Indian Affairs Committee (IAC) introduced a bill Thursday that seeks to strengthen public safety on tribal reservations, addressing concerns that Indian communities experience some of the highest crime rates in the US, according to federal data.

Senator John Hoeven introduces bill to promote Indian casino safety
Senator John Hoeven’s bill seeks to increase safety on Indian casino reservations amid reports of high crime rates and people trafficking. (Image: Twitter)

The bill, introduced by IAC chairman, Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), is co-sponsored by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and John Barrasso (R-WY).

“This bill enhances current law to ensure tribes have the tools to combat crime and keep their citizens safe and secure,” said Hoeven. “It also increases coordination between our tribal, federal and state law enforcement officials, so that we can more effectively improve safety in tribal areas and surrounding communities.

“In addition, it requires the Justice Department to track and analyze data on human trafficking of Native Americans both in and outside Indian Country.”

Human Trafficking on North Dakota Reservations

Hoeven has repeatedly raised concerns over instances of human trafficking rings operating on tribal reservations in his home state of North Dakota. Young Native American women and girls in the area are among the most vulnerable to trafficking in the US, according to the state Division of Criminal Investigation’s Internet Sex Crimes against Children Unit.

At an IAC hearing, Wednesday, tribal operators were forced to defend the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act from the suggestion that it needed fundamental modification and that tribal casinos were becoming “breeding grounds” for crime and human trafficking.

“The Department is mindful that, while gaming has great potential to improve economic conditions for tribal and non-tribal communities, it can also introduce new complications to communities, including a drain on local resources, increased traffic, visitation, and crime, such as drugs and prostitution,” said John Tasuda, principal deputy assistant secretary of Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior.

NIGC Defends Casino Reservations

But Jonodev Chaudhuri, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission, said in his testimony that the success of the Indian gaming industry is due to the expertise tribes have developed in regulating their own operations.

“The Commission believes any potential legislation related to gaming must include tribes and provide a level playing field of opportunity for Indian country,” said Chaudhuri.

“While the NIGC is not aware of any data suggesting human trafficking is any more rampant in Indian gaming than any other large commercial activity with heavy customer movement, we recognize the industry’s strong regulatory structure that provides the agency an area of opportunity to support broader efforts to stamp out human trafficking,” he added.