Tulalip picked for gambling commission

President Barack Obama wants a member of the Tulalip Tribes to lead the nation’s chief regulator of Indian gaming.

Obama has nominated Tracie Stevens to be chairwoman of the National Indian Gaming Commission, a three-member panel that regulates gambling activities which in 2009 produced $27 billion in revenues for Indian tribes.

“She’s a wonderful choice,” said Craig Bill, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs. “Based on her background, she will bring a different perspective for the present issues and view for the future to this job. And she’s a great representative of her tribe, the state and of the Northwest.”

Stevens is a senior adviser to the Assistant U.S. Secretary of Indian Affairs and worked on an array of tribal issues, including gambling, since getting hired in July 2009.

She’s built a national reputation from her work with the Tulalips. She held posts in marketing, operations and human resources and was executive director of strategic planning at the Quil Ceda Creek Casino.

She then became a policy analyst for the tribe from 2003-2006. She spent part of that time under the tutelage of Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, when he was the tribe’s government affairs director.

She also served on the boards of the Washington Indian Gaming Association from 2002-09 and the National Indian Gaming Association from 2003-09.

“I’ve watched Tracie grow and she’ll do an outstanding job,” McCoy said. “She’s very well versed in the world of Indian gaming.”

She represented the Tulalips in negotiations to update gambling compacts between Washington and all federally recognized tribes in the state.

She also lobbied state lawmakers on tribe-related bills, including a controversial one in 2005 to allow the Tulalips to retain millions in sales tax revenue collected at Quil Ceda Village. The bill did not pass.

Her involvement in gambling operations, complex negotiations and policy debates “will help now that she’s on the other side,” Craig Bill said. “It is very, very positive to have someone with that experience in that position.”

The commission is an independent federal regulatory agency based in Washington, D.C. established by the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Its three members oversee a $20 million annual budget and 113 employees including auditors, attorneys and investigators. It has offices around the country, including one in Bellingham and another in Portland, Ore.

They monitor Indian gambling and can conduct investigations. Violations can lead to fines and other penalties.

Obama nominated Stevens on April 28. Her appointment must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Before a vote, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will hold a hearing on her nomination. No date has been set.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a member of the panel, is expected to introduce her.

“Gaming, of course, is a contentious issue, but the senator is happy to have someone from the Northwest be nominated who will bring a unique perspective to the commission,” said John Diamond, Cantwell’s communications director.

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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