Rules clarifying the distinction between electronic bingo games and Las Vegas-style slot machines were published in the Federal Register in May by the federal regulatory agency for the nearly 400 tribal government casinos in the United States.
The distinction between bingo-style, or Class II machines, and the more popular Class III casino-style devices has been a subject of controversy because Class III gambling requires Indian governments to enter into agreements with states in which the tribal reservations are located.
Because many of the newer bingo machines replicate the more popular slot devices, tribes in some states-particularly California-have been using Class II machines to expand their operations without seeking state approval.
"The Indian gaming industry is in need of this classification in order to know which games need to be played under compact and which do not," said Phil Hogan, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission, which oversees casino operations for some 224 Indian tribes.
He said the new rules draw a distinction between "electronic enhancements" to bingo games and "facsimiles" of slot machines.
Redrafted sections 502 and 546 of the NIGC rules require that users of Class II machines play against each other through the use of cards displayed on electronic screens. The game must be "player banked," meaning prizes are to come from a pool of bets wagered by the participants in the game.
The new rules were devised with the assistance of a committee made up largely of tribal government casino regulators.