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Surveillance of Osage Casino employees could change hands

Plans are underway to transfer the Osage Casino surveillance functions from the Osage Nation Gaming Commission back to the Osage Casinos, according to an executive order from Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear.

On Aug. 19, Standing Bear issued a written executive order stating: “After consultation with the (ON) Gaming Commission, Osage Casinos and (ON) Gaming Enterprise Board, and review of the documentation, it is the finding of the Principal Chief that security and efficiency of Osage gaming will be enhanced by transfer of surveillance functions from the (ON) Gaming Commission to the Osage Casinos.”

The casinos’ surveillance operations are housed in the Gaming Commission office and are overseen by the three-person Gaming Commission board, which is appointed by the Principal Chief and all board members are confirmed by ON Congress. The surveillance officers and supervisors who monitor the seven-casino security camera systems are ON government employees under this arrangement, but the planned transfer of the surveillance functions to the casino would put those surveillance employees under casino management.

Standing Bear’s executive order then references a November 2007 executive order issued by then-Principal Chief Jim Gray that transferred the surveillance function to the gaming commission, which was originally under casino management when the gaming enterprise was known as Osage Million Dollar Elm Casino. Standing Bear then stated his executive order “repealed in its entirety” Gray’s executive order and noted the transfer shall be completed within 90 days.

“Nothing in this executive order diminishes or otherwise affects the authority and responsibility of the Osage Nation Gaming Commission,” Standing Bear said. The move of surveillance functions to the casino would mean a savings of about $4 million for the government operations budget with the casino budgets taking on the surveillance costs.

Standing Bear said the proposal to move the surveillance functions came as his office reviewed 2017 fiscal year government operations budgets, which are subject to consideration and action by the Fifth ON Congress when it convenes for the fall Tzi-Zho Session on Sept. 6.

The Gaming Commission board, including Chairwoman Marsha Harlan, Larraine Wilcox and Michael Kidder, voted to support a modification plan to consider the restructure of surveillance during their Aug. 15 meeting.

Harlan, who met with the ON Congressional Commerce and Economic Development Committee on Aug. 24, said “the Chief’s executive order simply recalled the executive order that Jim Gray, when he was Chief, issued. The move has not happened, there are many things that have to occur first, there’s certain laws that need to be looked at first.”

The Gaming Commission, with advice of their legal counsel Eugene Bertman, developed proposed changes to the casinos’ Tribal Internal Control Standards (TICS), which deal with casino surveillance functions. During an Aug. 30 special meeting, the Gaming Commission voted to post the proposed changes to the Nation’s website for public inspection and feedback for 30 days. Osage Casinos officials said they would view the proposed changes and respond with any needed feedback during that time.

Harlan said the 30-day posting is necessary as part of the rulemaking process and also part of the plans to transfer the surveillance functions to the casino by Oct. 1, which is the start of the 2017 fiscal year.

Bertman described the proposed changes as necessary protections “to make sure that we’re watching and doing what we need to do to make sure the casinos are doing their obligations.”

Standing Bear proposed the surveillance function transfer during the Aug. 17 Gaming Enterprise Board meeting in Tulsa and said the transfer would be a cost savings on the tribal government budget side, which equals about $4 million in employee payroll and other associated costs. He then asked the gaming board for a resolution of support for the proposed transfer of surveillance functions. In his research of the surveillance operations, Standing Bear noted there are 101 surveillance employees and 19 of them are Osage.

ON Congressman William “Kugee” Supernaw said the Congress would need to vote on a change to the Gaming Enterprise’s plan of operations, which includes the surveillance transfer functions.

Bertman told the Congressional commerce committee the Gaming Commission board also looked at the surveillance functions transfer as a cost savings considering the gaming commission budget is on track to comprise one-third of the Nation’s government operations spending costs. The surveillance employee count will rise again when the proposed Tulsa Osage Casino expansion project is completed.

Harlan told the Congressional committee certain provisions must be in place to ensure the casino is not regulating itself and the Gaming Commission maintains its regulatory authority. She said the commission would reapproach Congress with necessary changes that need to be made to the law “for this to effectively happen.”

The Gaming Commission website, including the proposed TICS changes may be viewed online at:


Benny Polacca

Original Publish Date: 2016-09-08 00:00:00

Benny Polacca

Title: Senior Reporter


Instagram: @bpolacca

Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.


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