IRS and Gaming Commission Probe Indian Tribes


In the US, Indian tribes are considered sovereign nations. The tribes are given certain special benefits such as gaming licenses. 242 of 564 Indian tribes have gaming licenses; however, they are subject to federal laws and are governed by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act that specifies that revenue must be spent on tribal or local government operations, economic development, charitable contributions and the general welfare of tribal members.

On the other hand, the law also permits tribes to distribute gambling profits to individual members under a federally approved "Revenue Allocation Plan" (RAP). About one third of tribes that own gaming licenses also have a RAP that allows them to allocate their profits to members of the tribe.

Recently, the National Indian Gaming Commission has accused the Seminole tribe in Hollywood of breaking the law over the years by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on half a dozen members, allowing them to purchase jewelry, vehicles and other personal expenses using funds meant for the tribe. This deprived the tribe of operating income. The 3,500-member tribe operates the popular Las Vegas-style Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood and Tampa.

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