WASHINGTON – National Indian Gaming Commission Chairman Montie Deer, whose conservative approach to gambling on reservations often conflicted with gaming tribes, has resigned.
Richard Schiff, the commission's acting chief of staff, said Deer is leaving to pursue other career opportunities in Tulsa, Okla. Deer submitted his letter of resignation to President Bush last Friday, with his resignation effective Sept. 5.
Most recently, Deer angered several Oklahoma tribes when he issued a sweeping decision that a machine popular in dozens of casinos was a slot machine, prohibited in the types of casinos the tribes operated.
Multimedia Games Inc., manufacturer of the machines, and several tribes sued the gaming commission over Deer's determination and that lawsuit is pending.
Despite their disagreements, Gordon Graves, chief executive officer of Multimedia Games, said Deer did a good job as chairman.
"It's a tough job,'' Graves said. "We're all going to miss him and think he worked real hard.''
In recent appearances before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Deer cautioned that gaming commission's $7.8 million budget has made it impossible for it to keep pace with the rapid growth in Indian gambling.
There are more than 300 tribal gaming operations on reservations nationwide, generating $12.7 billion annually.
Deer, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, was appointed by former President Clinton during a congressional recess in November 1998, after gambling opponents in the Senate opposed his appointment. He was confirmed by the Senate to a three-year term in March 1999. Although his term had lapsed, he agreed to continue serving as chairman.
Before his appointment, Deer had been an assistant U.S. attorney and state judge in Kansas.
Congress created the National Indian Gaming Commission in 1988 to monitor gaming on Indian reservations, to shield tribes from organized crime and corruption and to ensure that Indians benefit from gambling proceeds.