Eric Shepard named General Counsel of the National Indian Gaming Commission

Source: National Indian Gaming Commission

National Indian Gaming Commission logoWASHINGTON, April 29, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) Chairman Jonodev Chaudhuri announced Eric Shepard as the Commission’s General Counsel. Shepard has been acting General Counsel since September 2012. Shepard will continue to provide legal oversight, guidance and assistance to the Commission in carrying out its responsibilities under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

“I am grateful to Eric for his steadfast leadership as the acting General Counsel at a time of transition for the NIGC,” said Chaudhuri. “Eric has been a consistent source of counsel, legal insight, strategic thinking and collaborative spirit and he will continue to serve the NIGC well in the years ahead.”

Prior to joining the Office of General Counsel (OGC), Shepard was the Attorney General for the Colorado River Indian Tribes, for more than a decade. While in this position, he served as the chief legal officer and principal advisor to the Chairman and Tribal Council on litigation, federal and state legislative and regulatory affairs, land use and economic development proposals. Before serving the Colorado River Indian Tribes Shepard clerked for the Indian Country Environmental Justice Clinic and the Conservation Law Foundation, and served as a fellow at the Soros Open Society Institute in Bucharest, Romania.

“I am honored Chairman Chaudhuri has asked me to serve as the General Counsel of the NIGC,” said Shepard. “I look forward to continuing my work with the talented and committed attorneys and staff of the Office of General Counsel. I am committed to serving my client, the Commission, as well as maintaining and building relationships with tribes, tribal regulators, and the Indian gaming industry.”

The National Indian Gaming Commission is committed to the prompt and efficient regulation of the Indian gaming industry spanning more than 450 gaming establishments, associated with nearly 242 tribes across 28 states. The Commission’s dedication to compliance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act ensures the integrity of the $28 billion Indian gaming industry. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

The National Indian Gaming Commission is an independent regulatory agency established within the Department of the Interior pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. 

Supreme Court Says Mich. Can’t Block Indian Casino

WASHINGTON May 27, 2014 (AP)

From ABC News

By SAM HANANEL Associated Press

A divided Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Michigan can’t block the opening of an off-reservation American Indian casino because the state’s legal challenge is barred by tribal sovereign immunity.

In a 5-4 decision, the high court said the state could not shutter the Bay Mills Indian Community’s casino about 90 miles south of its Upper Peninsula reservation.

The ruling was a win for Indian tribes, which have increasingly looked to casinos as a source of revenue and have relied on immunity to shield them from government interference. But it’s a disappointment for Michigan and more than a dozen others states that say the decision will interfere with their ability to crack down on unauthorized tribal casinos.

Michigan argued that the Bay Mills tribe opened the casino in 2010 without permission from the U.S. government and in violation of a state compact. The tribe had purchased land for the casino with earnings from a settlement with the federal government over allegations that it had not been adequately compensated for land ceded in 1800s treaties.

Writing for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan said that the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act only allows a state to bring lawsuits challenging casinos operating on Indian lands. But the Bay Mills casino was opened outside the tribe’s reservation, Kagan said, placing it outside the law’s coverage.

Since the casino does not fall under federal gaming laws, Kagan said it is subject to the ordinary tribal immunity that extends to off-reservation commercial activities. Kagan said it doesn’t matter that the casino was authorized, licensed and operated from the tribe’s reservation.

Kagan noted that Michigan officials have other options for dealing with the casino, such as bringing a lawsuit against individual tribal officials or even prosecuting tribal members under criminal laws. She was joined in her opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

The casino has been closed since 2011, when a federal judge sided with Michigan and issued an injunction barring it from operating. The 6th Circuit U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw the injunction out after ruling that the court lacked jurisdiction over some claims and that the tribe also has sovereign immunity.

In a statement, the Bay Mills tribe said the decision “affords proper deference to Congress’ judgment and it will ensure that tribes like Bay Mills can continue to fund tribal education and perform other sovereign functions.”

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said he would follow the court’s advice and target individual tribal members for civil and criminal penalties.

Sixteen other states had submitted a brief in the case urging the court to side with Michigan. They argued that criminal prosecutions are less effective and more burdensome on the state in policing unauthorized casinos.

In dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas said he disagreed with the court’s 1998 case extending tribal sovereign immunity to bar lawsuits arising from an Indian tribe’s commercial activities outside its territory. In the 16 years since that decision, “tribal commerce has proliferated and the inequities engendered by unwarranted tribal immunity have multiplied,” Thomas wrote.

Thomas was joined in dissent by Justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel Alito.

Scalia also wrote a separate dissent to say that he had agreed with the court’s 1998 decision, but is now convinced that is was wrongly decided. Scalia said he would overrule that case “rather than insist that Congress clean up a mess that I helped make.”

The case is Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community, 12-515.


Associated Press writer John Flesher in Traverse City, Michigan, contributed to this report.

Fmr. Snoqualmie gaming commissioner calls casino operation ‘illegal’


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January 15, 2014

SNOQUALMIE — William Papazian, the former chairman of the Snoqualmie Gaming Commission, is suing three casino executives and two tribal council members for ousting fellow commissioners and replacing the entity responsible for independent oversight of gambling operations with themselves.

The litigation was flied in U.S. Federal Court last Friday.

The Snoqualmie Tribe, which is not specifically named in the lawsuit, denied Papazian’s claims and said it planned to help defent the accused.

Papazian chaired the Snoqualmie Gaming Commission for five years.  He resigned November 27, 2013 as other employees with the body were being fired, he alleged.

The commission is required by federal law and through a gaming compact, or agreement, the tribe has with U.S. and state authorities.  It is tasked to handle background checks of employees, ensure protocol is followed and keep an eye on casino floor operations.  It is supposed to be, “independent” and “separate…from that of the Gaming Facility or Tribal Government,” according to the compact.

Papazian alleges he and his fellow commission members and employees were removed and replaced by the Snoqualmie Tribal Council so it could “run an illegal, unregulated gambling operation”.

Furthermore, he accuses the defendants of racketeering, money laundering and fraud.

Papazian, who lives in Arizona, declined to comment.

The Washington State Gambling Commission confirmed Wednesday it was told by the Snoqualmie Tribe its council was taking “interim control” of its own gaming commission, and that it had no immediate concerns.

A spokesperson with the National Indian Gaming Commission, which approves all gaming compacts, would not confirm or deny if it was investigating the Snoqualmie Casino.

The tribe would not say who is on its gaming commission now or when a new one would be selected.

In a statement, the tribe wrote, “It is disappointing to know that our former employee, Mr. Papazian, has chosen to file a baseless civil complaint.  Mr. Papazian’s allegations are completely false and without merit.  The Snoqualmie Tribe will vigorously defend this case and support the named defendants.  This

complaint will not disrupt the workings of Tribal Government or Casino operations.  We will continue to work hard to help our people.”

CHART: The extraordinary rise of Native American casinos

Sam Ro | Business Insider

Mar. 10, 2013, 10:21 PM
When you think about gambling in America, the first thing that probably comes to mind is Las Vegas.

But Las Vegas currently represents just 10 percent of U.S. gaming industry revenue. This is according to a new report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Regional commercial gaming accounts for another 47 percent of the industry.

The remaining 43 percent: Native American gaming.

The Native American gaming story is particularly extraordinary in that it  has grown into a $27 billion business from almost nothing in just 20 years.

Here’s a chart from a BAML:

Gaming Revenue







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