Nooksack Indian Tribe have recently shut the door of their Northwood Casino in northern Washington state after the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) had noticed supposed infringements of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
Last Thursday the officials from the Gaming Commission ordered the people in charge of the Northwood Casino to close the site until further notice. The reasons behind this seemingly sudden decision is the numerous violations of the act which have been discovered, as well as the fact that apparently right now the Nooksack tribal council is not recognized by either the Department of the Interior or the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This means that the casino is operating illegally in the state and therefore must be shut.
Some of the infringements stated by the authorities, include, but are not limited to failure to take adequate care of the gaming building in order to protect public health and safety – the Environmental Protection Agency has found major issues with the water system in the facility and has concluded that it does not meet the standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Furthermore, the US government settled that the casino “failed to maintain its sole proprietary interest” and was handling the gaming activities in a careless manner. The management of the casino also failed to perform the licensing reviews of members of the Nooksack Business Corporation, who are the main management officials which take care of the gaming operations at the casino.
Jonodev Chaudhuri, Chairman for the National Indian Gaming Commission, said that the tribal council takes the issues found very seriously and the will further investigate the circumstances in which these problems had occurred. They also filed a lawsuit against the government for $13.7 million in damages, which was later dismissed, on the grounds of the tribe’s lack of authority to file it. If the Tribe wants to open the casino again they must meet all requirements of the officials.
This whole situation has some background dating back to 2016. In November last year the Nooksack Tribe came to the conclusion that it will be for the best if they expelled 289 people from their membership rolls in the Tribe. According to some of the Tribal councilors the said individuals lacked strong enough relations and blood ties to the tribe and this decision was a mere repairing of the previously made mistake to enroll them.
Of course, a legal battle with the National Indian Gaming Commission followed. The fact that the Tribe has four remaining council members and their membership expired at the end of 2016, does not help them either. Legitimate elections for new councilors were not held and this is what made the US government issue the statement that they no longer recognize them as a tribe.