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Former NIGC Chairman Simermeyer Part Of Big FanDuel Presence At Indian Gaming Association Convention

Written By Matthew Kredell | Updated:
E. Sequoyah Simermeyer

E. Sequoyah Simermeyer will make his debut as a FanDuel representative Monday at the Indian Gaming Association Tradeshow & Convention in Anaheim.

Simermeyer is used to being at the top national tribal gaming conference as a federal regulator. He left as chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission in February to take a job as vice president of strategic partnerships at FanDuel.

His first public appearance with FanDuel will ease him in. Rather than speaking about the online operator’s operations, with which he is still becoming familiar, Simermeyer will lead a discussion on a topic he knows from his previous position.

Simermeyer will talk about the legal and regulatory landscape surrounding the integration of AI in tribal gaming.

FanDuel is one of the top sponsors of the convention, as is DraftKings. FanDuel also is sponsoring one of the convention’s marquee events, the Indian Gaming Association Chairman’s Leadership Awards Luncheon.

CEO Amy Howe will jump into the deep end Tuesday to discuss tribal sovereignty in the evolving sports betting landscape with California Nations Indian Gaming Association Chairman James Siva and Pechanga Development Corp. Director of Public Affairs Jacob Mejia.

On Thursday, FanDuel SVP for Business Development Jonathan Edson will participate in a panel on tribal partnerships with sports teams and how they interact with sports betting.

Simermeyer spoke with PlayUSA about his decision to move from the nation’s lead regulator of Indian gaming to the nation’s leading online sports betting and gaming company.

“I’m interested in developing within FanDuel an understanding of the value that Indian gaming has as the economic development tool for tribes and how that can enhance and make a strong partnership between an organization like FanDuel and tribal governments.”

FanDuel’s major effort to build relationships with Indian tribes

The IGA Convention continues FanDuel’s effort to make amends for mishaps with Indian tribes in hopes of building sustainable partnerships in the future.

The effort started with hiring Rikki Tanenbaum, formerly COO of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, as senior vice president of strategic partnerships. Tanenbaum built FanDuel’s strategic partnerships team by adding Frank Sizemore and Simermeyer.

Sizemore spent seven years with San Manuel and consulted with a handful of smaller tribes in California, giving him a greater understanding of the different needs and viewpoints of a variety of tribes in the state. In 2022, he oversaw San Manuel’s successful campaign against Prop 27, an initiative backed by FanDuel to bring online sports betting to California.

“I had an up-close-and-personal view from the other side, and now I’m getting to see how FanDuel thought about 2022,” Sizemore told PlayUSA. “[FanDuel President] Christian [Genetski] said it best, that it was well-intentioned but very misguided and ill-informed. I don’t think they had a true appreciation for how big of an afront that initiative was to tribes. We’ll never repeat mistakes like that again. If nothing else, that’s the goal of this group. I’m looking forward to working with Sequoyah and learning from tribes.”

Simermeyer brings FanDuel a wider knowledge of tribal considerations and concerns from all regions of the country. Nobody has dealt with more tribal leaders nationwide than Simermeyer in nearly a decade at the NIGC.

“I was impressed knowing that folks like Frank and Rikki, who are dedicated in their careers to working closely with tribes and for tribes, had found an opportunity working with an online gaming leader like FanDuel. I can add value from my experience in the tribal regulatory community.”

Simermeyer brings tribal relationships, experience to FanDuel

Simermeyer has experience working for Indian Country while not directly working for tribes.

As NIGC Chairman, he worked in a position appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the US Senate. But he still tried to work in service of tribes.

Simermeyer was responsible for carrying out the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which aims to improve lives in tribal communities through gaming.

“Being a federal regulator involved collaboration to find beneficial outcomes in a government-to-government relationship. We had a common purpose for tribes to reach economic sustainability through gaming, but there were also areas distinctive to our missions that we had a responsibility to maintain. It was really important to have a relationship with tribal governments that respected their decision-making authority.”

Prior to joining the NIGC, Simermeyer worked with the National Congress of American Indians and the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the US Department of the Interior. He will continue living in the Washington DC area while working for FanDuel.

It’s no coincidence that Simermeyer’s career has always focused on service to native people.

He was born into the Coharie Tribe of North Carolina. His wife, Genevieve, comes from the Osage Tribe of Oklahoma featured in Martin Scorsese’s recent movie Killers of the Flower Moon.

“As a Native person, I understand the importance of a tribal government taking responsibility for its citizens. Tribal governments play a role in maintaining the ability for a community to move forward for its people. As a young person, I felt it was important to serve by own community. That has shaped the values I grew up with and what has always been important to me personally and in my professional life.”

Finding balance to help tribes while serving corporate interest

Simermeyer brings to FanDuel a reputation of being an ally for Indian Country throughout his career. It was important to him that he could continue that effort at FanDuel.

“I wouldn’t have taken this job if I didn’t think there would be an opportunity to help improve tribal governance and government capacity. From what I’ve seen, there’s a sincere desire from the FanDuel organization to reflect on what they can do to contribute to stronger partnerships with tribal governments. It can be good for Indian Country if it’s a partnership based on respect and an understanding of the unique governmental authority tribes have, which I can help provide at FanDuel.”

By adding to FanDuel his regulatory experience helping tribes gain greater self-sufficiency through gaming, Simermeyer sees an opportunity to help the tribes that want to take the next step into the online space with sports betting and online casino.

“To build sustainable partnerships, I think it’s important to support individual tribes in their decision-making on whether or not online sports betting is the right opportunity for their community. Technology and innovation has always been a hallmark within Indian gaming. I think everyone sees more and more how important technology innovation is, especially right now. Building on my experiences as a federal regulator, I know that there’s so much evolution in the industry at this time and this seemed like an exciting opportunity to engage in that.”

Photo by PlayUSA
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew Kredell serves as senior lead writer of legislative affairs involving online gambling at PlayUSA. He began covering efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling in 2007 after federal passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act disrupted his hobby of playing small-stakes online poker. He has since interviewed more than 300 lawmakers around the country and written extensively about online gambling legislation. He has led coverage of bills to legalize online gambling in most states. A lifelong Angeleno and USC journalism alum, Matthew started his career working as a sportswriter for a decade at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has written on a variety of topics for Playboy Magazine, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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