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Sharon M. Avery, a citizen of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan, was appointed acting chair of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) on May 15, 2024. 

The announcement follows her recent confirmation by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) to a three-year term as associate commissioner, effective May 6. Avery will assume both roles until a permanent chair is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

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“I am humbled by the administration’s trust in appointing me as the NIGC Acting Chair,” Avery said in a statement, pledging to diligently fulfill the duties and responsibilities outlined in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act until a permanent chair is confirmed.

Avery brings extensive experience to the role. For over four years, she has served as associate general counsel within the NIGC’s Office of General Counsel. Prior to joining the commission, Avery honed her legal expertise for a decade within the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe’s legal department. She holds a law degree and a certificate from the Indigenous Law and Policy Center from Michigan State University College of Law.

This appointment fills the vacancy left by former NIGC Chair E. Sequoyah Simermeyer, who departed to pursue a position with FanDuel, a private betting and entertainment company, as previously reported by Tribal Business News.

The National Indian Gaming Commission, established in 1988 by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), is a three-person commission tasked with fostering tribal economic development, self-sufficiency, and strong tribal governments through the operation of gaming on Indian lands. 

The IGRA empowers tribes to conduct gaming activities that comply with certain statutory requirements and tribal-state compacts. The commission’s chair is nominated by the president and requires Senate confirmation. Two associate commissioners, like Avery, are appointed by the Secretary of the Interior. All commission members serve three-year terms.