COL Casinos must negotiate terms with home state

Dear Mark: I have never been quite able to understand why certain American Indian casinos have full-fledged gambling, while others have what amounts to nothing more than a bingo hall. One that I was in recently said they were not allowed to have slots; yet, you could play bingo on a slot machine. What gives? I'm confused? -- Jack M.

Broadly speaking, without regard to specific details or exceptions, who's got what, where and why depends on the specific type of compact each tribe negotiated with the state and what class of gaming that tribe is allowed to provide. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, enacted in 1988 as Public Law 100 497, provides the jurisdictional framework that governs all forms of American Indian gaming. The act establishes three classes of games, each having their own regulatory scheme.

Class I gaming is defined as traditional American Indian gaming and social games for minimal prizes. Regulatory authority over Class I gaming is exclusively vested with the tribes, not the state or federal government.

Where you played offered only Class II gaming, defined as the game of chance commonly known as bingo. If played in the same location as bingo, instant bingo, punch board, pull tabs and other games similar to bingo are also allowed.

Class III gaming, often referred to a casino-style gaming, is wide-ranging and includes casino games such as slot machines, black jack, craps, roulette and poker.


Before a tribe is allowed access to your wallet, the following conditions must be met: The tribe must negotiate a compact with the state and the compact must be approved by the secretary of the Interior; the particular form of Class III gaming that the tribe wants to conduct must be permitted in the state in which the tribe is located; the tribe has to adopt a tribal gaming ordinance that has been approved by the chairman of the state's gaming commission.

As to your question regarding bingo slots, yes, they are recognized by Uncle Sam as Class II gaming devices, because electronic, computer or other technological aids used in connection with bingo are allowed. One such company, Rocket Gaming, headquartered in Miami, Okla., provides Class II bingo slots to approximately 55 American Indian gaming facilities in 13 states. Specializing in wide-area linked progressives, their machines are played in real time, with players competing against each other for major progressive jackpots.

True, they look and feel like typical slot machines, but technically they're not.

Mark Pilarski, who worked in Nevada casinos for years, will share his knowledge weekly in Entertainment. E-mail him at

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