IN FOCUS: Understanding the different classes of gaming

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Photo provided by Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act oversees two major categories of gambling: Class II gambling and Class III gambling.

Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in 1988.

The IGRA provided a regulatory framework for Indian gaming one year after the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed that tribal governments had the authority to establish gaming operations independent of state regulation. The high court made this decision in California v Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, according to the state of Oklahoma’s official website.

The passage of the IGRA established the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC).

There are three classes of gaming, but Class II gaming and Class III gambling are the two types of gaming that the federal government regulates on Indian land.

Class I gaming includes social games as well as traditional/ceremonial games. Indian tribes can offer Class I games without restrictions, according to the American Gaming Association’s Gaming Regulations and Statutory Requirements.

Class II gaming includes bingo and non-banked card games, according to the American Gaming Association.

“Tribes do not need to enter into any agreements at the state level to conduct Class II gaming under IGRA,” the AGA states.

The IGRA gave Native American tribes regulatory authority over Class II gaming with NIGC oversight.

“An Indian tribe can offer Class II games if the games are generally legal in the state where the tribe is located and adopt a gaming ordinance approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission,” the AGA states.

Class III gambling, the source of contention between the state and the tribes, includes all other forms of gambling, including casino-style gambling, according to the American Gaming Association.

Photo provided by Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association

The IGRA offered states a voice in determining the scope and extent of tribal gaming by requiring Tribal-State compacts for Class III gaming.

An Indian tribe cannot operate Class III games unless the tribe and the state have agreed to a tribal-state gaming compact

A compact between the state and a tribe does not become valid until the federal government approves it.

A tribe or game developer can request that the NIGC’s Office of General Counsel review a game and issue an advisory opinion on whether the game is Class II or Class III.

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