Letter of the law
Letter of the lawCoushatta leader letter calls for NIGC investigation A leader of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana has asked the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) to investigate what he described as fiscal improprieties and violations of a tribal-state gaming compact by other tribal leaders, the Associated Press reported.
Tribal Council Secretary-Treasurer Harold John reportedly sent a letter to Philip N. Hogen, chairman of the NIGC in April requesting the investigation.
Affie Ellis, a spokeswoman for the NIGC, told Gaming Headlines, Ascend Media Gaming Group's weekly online newsletter, that "We're fully aware of the situation. We're closely following it. The policy of our commission is not to comment on, or confirm the existence of, investigations or matters under review. So we can't really say much."
In February, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called for a congressional investigation into spending by five tribes, including the Coushattas, after tribal members complained about large fees being paid for lobbyists.
"I have repeatedly written and sent information to your office, and received several assurances that necessary oversight monitoring would take place, but yet have to see any results from your office," John is reported to have said in the letter to Hogen. "The Louisiana State Police have investigated and documented irregularities to the proper authorities, also to no avail."
John's letter states there has been improper use of casino funds for lobbying and political purposes. He also said violations of the tribal-state gaming compact "have escalated" and as a result tribal funds are now "severely depleted."
Ellis said she "needed to double-check to make sure that we have received a letter. I'm not quite sure of that."
John is reported to have enclosed a report from former Grand Casino Coushatta controller Erick LaRocque. In that report, LaRocque states $32.4 million in tribal funds had been spent on lobbyists and public relations from 2001 through April 2003.
Of that $32.4 million, $24 million of it was pulled from the tribe's general, housing, education and health funds, LaRocque said. He also said that to pay for lobbyists the tribal council obligated the tribe to a $10 million line of credit.
The Coushattas own and operate the Grand Casino Coushatta near Kinder. It generates more than $300 million a year in revenue and employs more than 3,000 people.