National Indian Gaming Commission finally sees another member

The National Indian Gaming Commission is participating in the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada, this week. Photo from Facebook

The National Indian Gaming Commission is finally getting another member after an unusual set of circumstances left Chairman Jonodev Chaudhuri alone in his role as the regulator of the $28.5 billion tribal casino industry.

E. Sequoyah Simermeyer is due to join the commission following a 30-day comment period that ends October 30. Notice of his appointment was made in today's issue of the Federal Register.

"Mr. Simermeyer is well qualified to be a member of the National Indian Gaming Commission by virtue of his extensive background and experience in a broad spectrum of Native American issues," the notice, which was signed by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, states.

Simermeyer currently works for the Senate Indian Affairs Committee as counsel to Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the chairman. He previously served as deputy chief of staff and counselor to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He also worked for the National Congress of American Indians.

"He has been a valuable member of our team at the committee and I know he will do well at the NIGC," Barrasso said in a press release. "Sequoyah’s hard work and expertise have made him a strong advocate for issues essential to Indian Country. It is vital that the commission be properly staffed, so I am glad to see Sequoyah’s appointment."

National Indian Gaming Commission Chairman Jonodev Chaudhuri participates in a panel at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada, on September 29, 2015. Photo from Facebook

Assuming Simermeyer joins the NIGC on September 30, the agency will have gone without a second member for five months. Daniel Little, who served as associate commissioner, departed on May 30, leaving Chaudhuri as the only person left following his confirmation as chairman in April.

The NIGC, though, still remains without a third member. The vice chair position has not been filled since the departure of Steffani Cochran in January 2013.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 calls for three people to serve on the NIGC. One is the chairman, to be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, while the other two commissioners are appointed by the Secretary of the Interior Department.

Except for a brief period in 1990, when the agency got off the ground with its first chairman and sole member, the NIGC has never gone with less than three members for a prolonged period of time.

IGRA also requires at least two of the members of the NIGC to belong to "any Indian tribe." Chaudhuri is a citizen of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma. Simermeyer is a member of the Coharie Tribe of North Carolina and is also part Navajo, according to a 2007 press release from the BIA.

IGRA also requires no more than two members to be from the "same political party." Chaudhuri was nominated by President Barack Obama, a Democrat. Simermeyer first joined the BIA under former president George W. Bush.

"I hope the remaining commissioner vacancy is filled properly and promptly, as well," Barrasso said in his press release.

Federal Register Notice:
Proposed Appointment to the National Indian Gaming Commission (September 30, 2015)

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