Statement of Bruce G. Ohr
Chief, Organized Crime and Racketeering Section Criminal Division, Department of Justice Presented to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Oversight Hearing on the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act Wednesday, July 25, 2001
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice-Chairman, and members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs for the opportunity to provide a written statement on Indian Gaming and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Specifically, I will address the issues of the infiltration of tribal gaming by members of organized crime and the Department of Justice's role in the contracting process under IGRA. My name is Bruce G. Ohr and I am the Chief of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice ("the Department").
Issue of Infiltration of Indian Gaming by Organized CrimeWe understand that the Committee is chiefly interested in whether the Department has any evidence that supports the perception that organized crime has successfully infiltrated Indian gaming. The Committee's interest is based, in part, upon a July 18, 2001, commentary in the Wall Street Journal which referred to a letter from Representatives Shays and Wolf to President Clinton in which the Congressmen noted that "the influence of organized crime on Indian gambling is alarming. Tribal leaders often find themselves forced into affiliations with members of organized crime rings. This stems directly from the lack of federal oversight for Indian gambling operations." The Department also is aware that a pending bill, H.R. 2244, the Tribal and Local Communities Relationship Improvement Act, would establish a Commission on Native American Policy, which would study, among other topics, the influence of organized crime on Indian gaming. The Department is reviewing this legislation but has not yet developed a position. The Department has found no evidence of a systematic infiltration of Indian gaming by elements of organized crime. There have been isolated incidents of organized crime attempting to infiltrate Indian gaming. For example, members of a Chicago organized crime family attempted to gain control over, and skim profits from, a casino operated by a California tribe called the Rincon Indian Band. A 1993 criminal prosecution arising from this incident resulted in numerous convictions. When the Rincon casino reopened, members and associates of Pittsburgh and Ohio organized crime attempted to infiltrate the same casino. In 1997, the Department successfully prosecuted seventeen defendants, which resulted in numerous criminal convictions. When information about possible organized crime involvement in tribal gaming is received, the Department investigates these allegations. I cannot comment on or provide you with any information concerning any pending or planned investigations. Further, if any tribal gaming operations believe that organized crime elements have tried to infiltrate their operations, the Department strongly encourages the tribal gaming operation to report such activity to federal law enforcement. The Department routinely monitors activities of organized crime. For example, the United States Attorneys' Offices annually submit organized crime assessments, which outline organized crime problems in each district, to the Criminal Division. Further, the Criminal Division coordinates with the Department of Labor to gather intelligence on whether organized crime has infiltrated the Indian gaming industry via the services industries, such as construction or food and beverage services. Additionally, the Federal Bureau of Investigation routinely assists the National Indian Gaming Commission with conducting background checks of primary management officials and other key employees of Indian casinos. In March 2001, Congressman Wolf requested that the Department's Office of the Inspector General provide a report on prosecutions of Indian gambling operations, including the infiltration of organized crime. The Office of the Inspector General recently sent its letter report to Congressman Wolf. The Office of Inspector General reported that the Criminal Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Office of Tribal Justice said that while there is an increasing potential for organized crime involvement due to growth of Indian gaming revenues, there is a lack of evidence that such involvement has occurred.
The Department's Role in the Process for Approval of Contracts
Finally, the Committee has inquired about the role of the Department of Justice with respect to Indian gaming management contracts. I am happy to explain the Department's very circumscribed role in this area. The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) decisions to approve management contracts, to impose civil administrative penalties, as well as its review of tribal ordinances and management contracts for compliance with IGRA are subject to judicial review in federal district court. The Department represents the NIGC, when named as a defendant, in these lawsuits. The Department also represents the NIGC when its administrative actions require a judicial order to enforce.
Indian tribal gaming has proven to be a useful economic development tool for a number of tribes, who utilize gaming income to support a variety of essential services. While tribal gaming has become a lucrative industry and a potential target for organized crime, the Department has found no systematic attempts by organized crime groups to become involved in tribal gaming. We are unaware of any comprehensive studies or investigations into infiltration of Indian gaming by organized crime. However, there are several federal and state agencies nationwide which are charged with the responsibility of monitoring Indian gaming operations. Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you and the Committee for asking for the Department's views on this issue. If we may be of additional assistance, we trust that you will not hesitate to call upon us.