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Tribal Casino Fees May Be Hiked For More Regulators

Associated Press

The agency that regulates Indian casinos would double its budget under an agreement by lawmakers to impose a new fee on tribal gambling operations.

The National Indian Gaming Commission has complained that it is badly short-staffed. The agency has six field investigators to cover nearly 280 casinos and bingo halls spread around the country.

The fee contained in a spending bill approved by the House on Friday would boost the budget from $4.3 million to $9 million for fiscal 1998, which began Oct. 1. The Senate is to vote on the bill next week.

“We certainly want to increase the numbers (of investigators) out there in the field,” Commission Chairman Tadd Johnson said.

The fee would be imposed on both casinos and bingo halls. It replaces a smaller fee that was levied only against bingo operations.

Another provision in the spending bill would prevent the commission from weakening regulations on electronic gambling devices.

Some tribes and manufacturers have been pushing the commission to allow tribes to operate those games without state approval and the agency recently announced that it would reconsider those rules.

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