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Stephen M. Hart

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Steve’s many years of educational and practical experience in tribal affairs ensure strategic and well-considered solutions that reflect the values of his clients.

Steve Hart is a nationally recognized Indian and gaming law lawyer representing tribes and tribal gaming commissions throughout the western United States. He provides insight and strategic advice on issues related to tribal-state compact negotiations, land into trust, and Indian lands determinations. Steve also practices in the area of corporate and government relations, overseeing policy, economic development, and state and federal legislative and administrative practices. He has also assisted with licensing matters, real estate and project development, intellectual property issues, financial transactions, litigation, and general business law matters. In addition, he represents corporations and other business entities in their efforts to shape and comply with government regulations, and in their business interactions with tribes and tribal entities.

Steve is actively involved with a number of tribal business associations, a published author, and frequent presenter at conferences and events, including the Western Indian Gaming Conference, the International Masters of Gaming Law, the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, and the American Bar Association.

Steve served as the director of the Arizona Department of Gaming during the Jane Hull administration. He led the Department through Sunset legislation, budget crises, and high-profile gaming investigations. In addition, he served as Governor Hull’s personal legal advisor on Indian gaming and was on the Governor’s team for negotiation of new Tribal-State gaming compacts with the 22 Tribal governments in Arizona. His work for the state of Arizona culminated with the December 2002 signing of new gaming compacts in Arizona.

Personal Approach

Steve has an unyielding passion for advocacy and combines it with thorough research, deep knowledge of compacts, detailed preparation, and an understanding of Native American cultures. His pragmatic approach and experienced perspective are key factors in crafting actionable plans that fund projects, facilitate initiatives, and advance his clients’ economic interests. He inspires trust and his clients appreciate his deep knowledge of traditional values that define them and their objectives.

Steve’s interest in working with tribes began while he was studying developmental economics and doing graduate research assistant work at the University of California, Berkeley. He focused on learning and understanding the issues affecting Native American communities.

Originally from Montreal, Quebec, Steve moved to Arizona at the age of 10. In his free time, he enjoys hiking the Arizona trails and spending time with his wife and dog.

More About Stephen M. Hart

Education

  • J.D., University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, 1985
  • B.A., University of California, Berkeley, 1980

Bar Admissions

  • Jamul Indian Village, 2013
  • Rincon Tribe, 2010
  • Yurok Tribe, 2009
  • Yavapai-Apache Tribe, 2007
  • Arizona, 1985

Court Admissions

  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court, District of Arizona
  • Intertribal Court of Southern California

Community

  • Intertribal Court of Southern California, Member
  • Indian Law Section of the State Bar of Arizona, Past Chairman
  • International Masters of Gaming Law, Member
  • American Bar Association, Member
  • California Nations Indian Gaming Association

Representative Matters

  • Economic Development. Steve led the team of attorneys that assisted an Arizona tribe through all legal aspects of a build out of a $120 million resort. The team worked to obtain political support of the local community, state legislators, State Governor, and U.S. Senator. They successfully acquired the land and worked with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to secure the land into trust, assisted with infrastructure design, negotiated the necessary easements for infrastructure improvements, including telecommunications, water, access, wastewater disposal, and other construction issues, and handled the final construction of the project, and provided advice on sovereign immunity and other contract matters.
  • Innovative Financial Approach Saves Tribe $400 Million. Steve assisted a California tribe with its struggling casino. The gaming compact in place with the State of California, along with political and legal obstacles found the tribe deeply in debt and unable to meet revenue distribution allocations. As lead negotiator, Steve successfully argued the arrangements were not in compliance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and renegotiated an unprecedented new deal for the tribe with the state of California, restructured financial obligations to bondholders and its previous management company, saving the tribe hundreds of millions of dollars over the term of the compact.
  • Multi-Tribe Compact Negotiations in New Mexico. Steve began a complex negotiation involving four other tribes, with the ultimate goal of securing new compacts with the state of New Mexico that would benefit all five tribes. The negotiations took a number of years, and Steve and his team were able to help solve difficult issues involving revenue sharing, previous compact amendments, and the pressured timing of the legislative calendar and various compact termination deadline, as well as guiding the tribe through the approval process with the state legislature and the Department of Interior.
  • Assisted With Key Lawsuit Affecting Tribal Compacts. Steve co-counseled with a California tribe in its lawsuit against the State of California and Governor. Subsequently, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that California had failed to negotiate in "good faith" by demanding "illegal taxation." The Court went on to identify how the State and the Tribe could negotiate and agree upon “legal revenue sharing.” This is one of the most important decisions for Indian tribes in the past decade. The state of California reconsidered and changed its negotiation strategy and dramatically reduced revenue sharing rates. Steve has included writing legislation involving internet poker and other items affecting California tribal casinos.

Honors & Recognitions

  • The Best Lawyers in America - Lawyer of the Year, Woodward/White, Aiken, S.C, Gaming Law, 2019, 2021-2022
  • The Best Lawyers in America, "Lawyer of the Year" 2021, Woodward/White, Aiken, S.C., Gaming Law and Native American Law, 2005-2021
  • Chambers USA, Native American Law, 2018-2021
  • Martindale-Hubbell, "AV/Preeminent Attorney" rating

Publications

Events

  • Panelist, "Indian Country: Implications of Mobile," Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, August 2021
  • Panelist "Tribal Sports Betting: Negotiating the Compact," National Indian Gaming Association Convention, July 2021
  • Panelist, "California Sports Betting: The Path Forward," National Indian Gaming Association Convention, July 2021
  • Moderator, "Sports Wagering: Will it Change the Paradigm for Indian Gaming?" Western Indian Gaming Conference, February 2020
  • Moderator, "The Expansion of Tribal Court Jurisdiction," Western Indian Gaming Conference, February 2020
  • Panelist, "Tribal-State Gaming Compacts Hot Topics & Recent Trends," National Council of Legislators From Gaming States, January 2020
  • Presenter, "Sports Betting: A New Paradigm for Tribal Gaming," REDW Tribal Gaming Leadership Summit, November 2019
  • Panelist, "Master Level: Sports Betting: Addressing the Regulations," Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Conference, July 2019
  • Moderator, "Point and Counter Point: Measuring Compact Commitments & Community Needs," Tribal Summit on Responsible Gaming, July 2019
  • Presenter, "Sports Betting Prospects in Arizona after Murphy v. NCAA," 4th Annual Barristers & Baseball, March 2019
  • Moderator, "Current Legal Events Impacting Tribal Governments," Western Indian Gaming Conference, February 2019
  • Panelist, "Sports Betting: The Path Forward for Indian Country," Global Gaming Expo, October 2018 
  • Presenter, "History of Sports Betting and the Case,” ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, August 2018
  • Presenter, “When Will the Tribes be Able to Operate Sports Betting?” Western Indian Gaming Conference, February 2018
  • Presenter, "Recent Court Decisions in Indian Country: Lewis, Patchak, Carcieri and Beyond," International Masters of Gaming Law Panel, March 2018  
  • Presenter, "The Evolution of Tribal/State Compacts in California," 22nd Annual Western Indian Gaming Conference, February 2017
  • Moderator, "Tribal Gaming Legal Issues with States," Winter Meeting of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, January 2017
  • Presenter, "Tribal-State Gaming Issues a Hot Topic for Legislators, Regulators," National Council of Legislators from Gaming States 2016 Winter Meeting, December 2016
  • Presenter, “Online Gaming in Indian Country,” American Bar Association: 20th Annual National Institute on the Gaming Law Minefield, February 2016
  • Presenter, "The State of Compacting in California – Takeaways From Recent Gaming Compacts," Western Indian Gaming Conference, February 2016
  • Program Co-Chair and Presenter, "State Legislative Trends,” Law Seminars International: The Third Annual Conference on Legal Issues for Tribal Online Gambling, May 2015
  • Thought-Leader, “Open Space: Tribal and Regional Gaming,” GiGse Totally Gaming, April 2015
  • Presenter, "Tribal State Gaming Compacts - Lessons Learned" and "Internet Gaming - Point, Counterpoint," Western Indian Gaming Conference, February 2015
  • Presenter, "iGaming in Indian County: Federal, State and Tribal Developments" and "State of California Tribal Compact Negotiations: Past, Present & Future," California Gaming Law Summit, January 2015
  • Moderator, "Regulatory - Don't Get Called for Illegal Procedure Because You Weren't Up on the Latest Issues Facing Gaming Operations and Regulations," 2014 Arizona Indian Gaming Association EXPO, November 2014
  • Presenter, "Indian County Series: Advances in Technology," International Masters of Gaming Law 2014 Spring Conference, April 2014
  • Program Co-Chair and Presenter, "State Legislative Trends and Update on Currently Pending State Legislation" and "Tribal-State Compacts: Determining the Extent to Which Tribes Need to Negotiate Updated Terms to Accommodate Internet Gaming,” Law Seminars International: The Second Annual Conference on Legal Issues for Tribal Online Gambling, April 2014
  • Presenter, "Getting the Lay of the Land," iGaming Legislative Symposium, February 2014
  • Presenter, "Tribal Government: Joint Power Agreements," and "Internet Gaming," Western Indian Gaming Conference, February 2014
  • Presenter, "End of the Road or New Opportunity? Renegotiating Compacts," Global Gaming Expo, September 2013
  • Presenter, "Compact Renegotiations: Considerations and Opportunities," Arizona Indian Gaming Association Second Annual Tribal Leader Retreat, August 2013
  • Program Co-Chair and Presenter, "Recent and Likely Future Legislative and Other Legal Developments," and "Tribal-State Compacting and Internet Gaming," Law Seminars International: Tribal Online Gambling, April 2013
  • Presenter, "General Session Seminars: Internet Poker," Western Indian Gaming Conference, February 2013
  • Presenter, "State of Gaming: Internet Gaming - Internet Poker Regulatory and Operational Challenges," Arizona Indian Gaming Association Doing Business in Indian Country, November 2012
  • Presenter, "Issues in Compacting," National Indian Gaming Association's 2012 Tradeshow and Convention, April 2012
  • Presenter, "Tribal Gaming from a Competition Perspective," iGaming North American 2012 Conference, March 2012
  • Presenter, "Internet Gaming - Where Are We? Where Are We Going?," Western Indian Gaming Conference, February 2012
  • Presenter, “What’s Happening in Indian Gaming?” International Masters of Gaming Law, May 2011
  • Presenter, “Tribal Gaming: Legal and Regulatory Update,” Florida Gaming Summit, October 2010
  • Presenter, “Enforcement of MICS and Corresponding Policies and Procedures in Indian Casino Environment,” Western Indian Gaming Association,” January 2010
  • Presenter, "Trends in Recent Tribal/State Gaming Compacts," Indian Country's Winning Hand: 20 Years of IGRA Conference, October 2008
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