Off and Running
Initially slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian Nations Gaming & Governance Program is building important momentum in multiple areas
By Matt Jacob
The William S. Boyd School of Law at UNLV unveiled the Indian Nations Gaming & Governance Program following a substantial gift from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in early 2020. Then just as the school was set to further boost its reputation as a leader in tribal law, gaming, and governance education … a global pandemic hit.
Fast-forward nearly two years: After a slow rollout, the Indian Nations Gaming & Governance (INGG) Program is finally building momentum. From expanded curriculum and personnel to regular programming designed to enhance the discussion about issues related to Native American gaming and governance, students, faculty, the general public and—ultimately—Indian country are beginning to reap the benefits of the San Manuel band’s generosity.
Here’s a look at the various ways in which the program is gaining traction.
Class is in session: Boyd Law students—both traditional juris doctor candidates and those enrolled in the nation’s only master’s in gaming law program—can now choose from seven different courses related to Indian law, gaming, and governance. Among them is the aptly titled “Tribal Law and Governance” course, which is taught by Addie Rolnick, the law school’s San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Professor of Law and director of the INGG program.
“At Boyd, we’ve historically had strength in gaming and strength in Indian law, but not the stuff in the middle,” Rolnick says. “This course addresses that by covering issues related to gaming, to the internal law of tribes, and tribal governance. It’s the centerpiece of the program. Its goal is to not only produce future leaders in Indian country but prepare all types of law students to work more effectively with tribal governments.”
Welcome aboard: Early this year, the INGG program welcomed its first set of visiting professors and introduced its first two distinguished fellows.
University of North Dakota professors Kathryn Rand and Steven Light, both of whom have extensive experience in tribal gaming law and governance, taught three classes in the spring 2022 semester. After starting the semester online, the colleagues headed west to the Boyd Law campus, where Rand taught Indian Gaming Law, Light taught Contemporary Issues in American Indian Politics, and the two tag-teamed on the Guided Research & Writing in Indian Gaming course.
“When the law school was working to establish the INGG [program] and develop its academic programming, they reached out to us for some informal consultation. That led to an invitation for us to serve as the inaugural visiting faculty,” says Rand, who along with Light co-directs the Institute for the Study of Tribal Gaming Law & Policy at the University of North Dakota. “We were honored by the invitation and the opportunity to contribute to the program
“We were pleased to have more than 30 students enroll in our courses. Interestingly, each course had its own group of students—there was relatively little overlap. That told us that a wide range of students are interested in different aspects of tribal gaming.”
In addition to Rand and Light, the INGG program welcomed distinguished fellows Jennifer Carleton and John Tahsuda III. The two joined fellow professor Anthony Cabot, the law school’s longtime distinguished fellow in gaming law.
Carleton, an attorney with deep roots in the Las Vegas gaming law community and experience as in-house counsel for an Indian casino, will help the INGG program establish its advanced Indian law and gaming curriculum and create the first-of-its-kind Indian gaming experiential learning program.
Let’s have a discussion: The INGG program also expanded its public education and leadership programming over the past two years, hosting multiple webinars and in-person events. These external programs are targeted to students, scholars and the general public, and will continue to grow under Tahsuda’s guidance
Among the upcoming planned programming: a December webinar focused on Indian gaming lands (including how the Department of the Interior analyzes requests for lands that aren’t located on a reservation); and an in-person conference in the spring that will discuss the history of Indian gaming in California (including an examination of legal principles that ultimately led to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988)
In addition to conferences and webinars, the program plans to offer free online workshops on a number of topics relevant to young legal practitioners and tribal government officials working in Indian country.
“Resources like the INGG program can be helpful to the continued health of Indian gaming—and even more, to the continued evolution of the relationships between tribal governments and federal, state, and local governments,” says Tahsuda, a former U.S. Department of the Interior official and member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma who will be teaching Federal Indian Law as an adjunct professor during the spring 2023 semester.
“With regard to the spring conference, we want to take a step back and look at where Indian gaming started,” Tahsuda says. “In fact, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians can provide a prime case study into the ingenuity of tribes as they began operating bingo halls to generate desperately needed funding for their communities. The legal battles fought then set the foundation for the success of the Indian gaming industry today.”
Come one, come all: While the INGG program is picking up some much-needed post-pandemic steam, Rolnick knows the best way to achieve maximum impact—both in Indian country and beyond—is to recruit and retain students who have an interest in tribal gaming and governance.
That means elevating the program’s profile through targeted outreach, particularly aimed at Native Americans living in tribal communities.
“We have an established strength in gaming because we’re positioned in Las Vegas,” Rolnick says. “But when it comes to recruiting some of the top Native students in the country who want to go to law school, it’s important to demonstrate a commitment to all aspects of Indian gaming law and tribal governance. This program is designed to do just that, positioning UNLV Boyd to be the academic and intellectual hub of Indian gaming.”