Indian Country Well-Represented at G2E

Indian country was well-represented at this year’s G2E in Las Vegas. It was an honor to host several events for tribal leaders not only at the Sands Convention Center, but also at several other venues in Las Vegas.

G2E is an annual gaming industry trade show and conference that draws more than 30,000 gaming industry professionals and exhibitors from around the world. To see such a large portion of this audience either from tribal nations or affiliated with tribal gaming is an amazing testament to Indian country’s hard work to transform gaming into an economic engine, driving not only our reservation economies, but a great component adding to the American economy. In 2011, Indian gaming accounted for 45 percent of the G2E attendee total and this year appeared no different, as tribal members had a very strong presence on the show floor.

To open the show, American Gaming Association (AGA) President and CEO Frank Fahrenkopf had Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of KISS cut the opening ribbon. While it was exciting to be on stage with global gaming industry representatives and rock legends, it was a greater thrill to see and hear the arousing response by those from our tribal gaming industry who turned out for the ribbon cutting. I want to personally thank all of the tribal gaming representatives who attended the ceremony. It is so honorable to represent tribal government gaming at this global gaming venue. Indian country’s representation at G2E reflects the strength and vitality of our industry.

Ernie Stevens Jr. is joined by other industry leaders at the G2E ribbon cutting.NIGA’s trade show booth featured a tribal leader lounge and tribal leader reception area. This area was constantly filled with Indian gaming representatives eager to discuss the current state of Indian gaming and its future direction. Of particular interest to the audience was Internet gaming. NIGA assured those in attendance and the G2E audience at large that we will continue to remain vigilant and analyze the Internet’s potential impact on Indian country. Indian country certainly will not turn its back on new technologies and new avenues of entertainment; after all, Indian country understands firsthand the challenges of starting a new economic adventure. Gaming history shows that tribes have been a critical component in affecting how bingo is played in America as well as new regulatory innovations. NIGA will continue to do our work with tribal leaders and we remain committed to ensuring Indian country is treated appropriately under any Internet gaming legislation.

Industry leaders packed the lounge and this was a wonderful time to recognize the many who are making impressive contributions in Indian gaming. Danny Tucker, chairman of the Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Nation and chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association welcomed the crowd, and provided opening comments. We recognized San Diego State University (SDSU) students and Professor Kate Spilde, Seminole Tribe of Florida President Tony Sanchez Jr., Pauma Band of Luiseno Indians Councilwoman Bennae Calac, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe Council Member Michelle Stanley, Tribal Financial Advisors Chairman Rick Hill, Idaho State Representative Candidate Paulette Jordan, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Chairman Charles Vig and George Rivera, governor of the Pueblo of Pojoaque.

It was a thrill to have so many tribal leaders and their teams represented at G2E. These leaders have demonstrated remarkable dedication to their communities and to the continuance of Indian gaming as a viable way to improve the lives of the people and the neighboring communities we impact.

Take Dr. Kate Spilde for instance. In a partnership with the Sycuan Institute at SDSU, they will release a national impact study on tribal government gaming to evaluate the second decade of social and economic change on and near Indian reservations.

I was glad that Chairman Tucker from the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation and students from the Sycuan Institute were on hand to receive this award. Gaming has had a tremendous impact on our communities, and it is great to know that Professor Spilde and SDSU are ushering in a new generation of young leaders through this project.

Statues made by renowned sculptor from Jemez Pueblo Adrian Wall were provided to these leaders during the Chairman’s Reception.

I also had the opportunity to sit down with World Heavyweight Champions Evander Holyfield, and we shared our boxing histories and our mutual dedication to improving the lives of our communities’ youth. This discussion took place over some spitfire pork boosted with the Arkansas taste of Holyfield’s “Real Deal” BBQ Sauce.

We discussed and shared our valuable experience as young aspiring fighters in the Boys and Girls Club in our respective communities, and how now we share the honor of both being members of the Boys and Girls Club of America Hall of Fame.

This event is the largest gaming event in the world and we are glad to see a high number of attendees from Indian country represented at the ribbon cutting and our reception through their positive and exciting energy. It lets the world know that gaming is a strong industry, and Indian gaming has a tremendous presence.

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