Jonodev Chaudhuri Leaves National Indian Gaming Commission Chairman Post, Trump To Name Successor

Posted on: April 29, 2019, 10:27h. 

Last updated on: April 29, 2019, 10:27h.

Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri is stepping down as chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) — as speculation mounts who will succeed him as head of the powerful federal regulator that monitors tribal gambling across the United States.

National Indian Gaming Commission Chair Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri (seen here in 2015) will leave his post in May. (Image: YouTube)

President Donald Trump will nominate his replacement who also needs to be confirmed by the Senate. So far, it is unknown who may be in the running.

The nominee could reveal Trump’s beliefs on tribal gaming and whether he wants an activist regulator or a more hands-off chairman to monitor tribal gambling. In other areas, Trump often has favored commissioners and agency heads who want fewer regulations.

At least two members of the NIGC must belong to an Indian tribe. The chairman serves for a three-year term.

Part of the federal Department of the Interior (DOI), the NIGC was set up under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988. It only oversees tribal gaming, with commercial casinos falling under the supervision of state gambling officials.

Chaudhuri’s three-year term came to an end last year, but he remained in the position for several additional months. The announcement was released last week by the commission.

Plans for Future

In the statement, Chaudhuri said he will miss working with the NIGC and that he looks “forward to starting a new phase of my career.”

Chaudhuri told Indian Country Today he would be an “ambassador” for his tribe, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. He has not given details on plans for the future.

Under his tenure, the NIGC appeared to follow closely the federal and tribal laws and regulations as they apply to tribal gaming — especially the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

We have been able to protect the integrity of Indian gaming,” he added about his tenure.

Recently, he signed a Notice of Violation (NOV) on April 11 which said the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin misspent or misaccounted more than $1.5 million of tribal casino money. The tribe risks paying up to $27 million in fines after allegedly committing 527 infringements of the IGRA and other laws.

Chaudhuri’s Accomplishments

He called being chairman the “honor’ of his “lifetime.” Some of the NIGC initiatives he highlighted include: stressing integrity in Native American gaming, more outreach efforts — especially with smaller or rural tribes — and more support for gaming operations and commission staff.

Chaudhuri also emphasized how the commission tried to uncover any “manipulation” by non-tribal entities of business, professional or employment relationships with Indian gaming operations.

Additionally, the NIGC recently set up a technology division, which oversees information technology, records management and training.

Chaudhuri was nominated by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed as chairman by the Senate in April 2015. Officially, his last day will be May 15.

Earlier, he was acting chairman, vice chair, associate commissioner at the NIGC. Before, he was senior counselor to the Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs.

He has also represented tribal nations and commercial gaming companies as an attorney in private practice. He has been a judge on five different tribal courts, including Chief Justice of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Supreme Court.

He worked in legal services for needy clients, and is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Cornell Law School.

NIGC Vice Chair Kathryn Isom-Clause will assume “day-to-day” operations of the commission, according to the NIGC statement. A member of the Taos Pueblo tribe, she was appointed in 2016.

NIGC commissioners are influential when it comes to regulating tribal gaming which is an important revenue source for Native American communities and provides key funds for state and local governments.

Nationally, tribal casinos account for nearly half of US gaming market, according to an American Gaming Association report released last November.