NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, joined by a bevy of celebrities and members of the NIGA Executive Board, cut the ceremonial red ribbon yesterday, signifying the opening of the 28th annual National Indian Gaming Association tradeshow.

Stevens was joined former NIGA secretary Lynn Valbuena and celebrities such as former world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, actor Adam Beach and former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Current members of the NIGA board were also present, including Greg Abrahamson, chairman, Spokane Tribe of Indians; Bernadine Burdette, vice president, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and current secretary of NIGA, just re-elected to her second term; Kevin Leecy, chairman of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa and vice chairman of NIGA;  Ranny McWatters, Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma; Matthew Morgan, gaming commissioner, Chickasaw Nation; David Bean of Puyallup Tribe, NIGA northwest delegate; NIGA treasurer Mark Fox of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation; and Kurt Bluedog of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Tribe.

“Today, we have filled the 315,000 square-foot floor with over almost 400 world-class exhibits, who are our friends in the gaming industry and Native-owned businesses who are eager to build their brands. There is a $28 billion industry behind these doors, and we welcome you,” Stevens said. “I am happy to report that revenues have increased in 2012. This is a tremendous achievement, and our tribal leaders are to be commended.”    

The convention opens today at 8:00 a.m. There will be two hours of workshops, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and the trade show’s final four hours will run from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.