Proposed law seeks to return Gaming Board its management authority

A proposed legislative bill seeks to repeal a 2011 law, which removed the management authority of the Osage Nation Gaming Enterprise Board. The bill was introduced on Day One of the 2012 Hun-Kah Session on March 19.

Congressman Raymond Red Corn filed ONCA 12-24 on Feb. 7, which seeks to repeal ONCA 11-82 – a law that “remov(ed) the management authority of the Gaming Enterprise Board; to place management authority in the employees of the wholly-owned Gaming Enterprise.” The management authority is therefore vested in Osage Casino Chief Executive Officer Neil Cornelius and his staff.

In advance of the Hun-Kah Session, several government leaders met with the gaming board to have an initial discussion on the bill Feb. 15.

As a result of ONCA 11-82’s passage in September 2011, the gaming board became a board with oversight responsibility. Red Corn opposed the bill and believes the board’s role is minimized, so he is seeking to overturn the law change. The board’s role is defined in the Nation’s 2007 gaming law (ONCA 07-30), but ONCA 11-82 revised the board’s duties by striking the words “develop, supervise, control, direct, manage, oversee, own and operate”

At the meeting Red Corn said he believes “there could be underlying support to repeal” ONCA 11-82 (sponsored by Congressman Mark Simms), which led to the bill filing. Red Corn said he believes in the 2006 reformed government Constitution noting there are separation of power provisions in the bill regarding tribal enterprise boards which oversee operations.

“My personal philosophy is we write law for the long run,” Red Corn said. “I want the law to work for the whole to correct mistakes, what we should be doing is seeing how resilient the law should be if mistakes are made.” He encouraged the gaming board members to consider all worse case scenarios.

Congressman Eddy Red Eagle, who also attended the Feb. 15 meeting, said he would be opposing ONCA 12-24 over concerns the gaming board was getting too involved in the casino day-to-day operations. He was among the six Congress people who voted for ONCA 11-82.

The Second ON Congress passed ONCA 11-82 on a 6-5 vote on Sept. 27. In his Sept. 16 e-mail newsletter “Update,” Red Corn noted that the gaming board nor casino management was not consulted on the law change at the time. Five months later, the board, which has since expanded from three to five members, commented on the law change.

Gaming board member Stacy Laskey, who supports the repealing of ONCA 11-82, said ONCA 11-82 has not made the board “ineffective” as a result of its passage last year.

She later told the Osage News: "I strongly support the proposed repeal because it will restore clarity as to the Board’s role and functions and the proper balance of authority essential to an effective system of internal control."

“We’ve been operating by it and it hasn’t been ineffective,” Laskey said during the gaming board meeting, adding, “We haven’t been involved in the day-to-day activities.”

Osage Casino CEO Neil Cornelius said he agreed with Laskey during the meeting and said the board and staff have come together “to do all we need to do.”

The bill was read into the record by Red Corn and will be up for consideration by the Congressional Commerce and Economic Development Committee during the 24-day Hun-Kah Session.