The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed with two Native American tribes in their battle against Texas State of Texas over authorized gambling on their land. The decision, which was handed down on Wednesday, reiterated their rights to regulate non-prohibited gambling and strengthened the sovereignty of tribal tribes within the state.
In a 5-4 decision the nation’s top court determined it was that the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo tribe located near El Paso -also known as the Tiguasand the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas north of Houston have the authority to oversee the electronic Bingo games on their land according to Texas Tribune.
While the decision does not expand the types of games tribes may offer on their land, it does affirm their right to regulate gambling that isn’t banned in Texas regardless of state rules. That means that if a game isn’t completely banned or isn’t criminalized, Texas can’t impose its rules on tribes’ games.
“The ruling is a confirmation of Tribal sovereignty and is a win on behalf of the Texas economy,” said Ricky Sylestine who is chair of the Alabama Coushatta Tribe’s Tribal Council, according to the El Paso Matters. “The supreme court of the state has stated that our Tribe is able to legally run electronic bingo on the reservation like we have done for during the past 6 years.”
In the Tiguas’ case, their battle against Texas state concerning gambling has been a constant affair for more than three decades now. The tribe runs bingo-based gaming at the Speaking Rock Entertainment Center in the Lower Valley.
“The Tribe is evidently extremely pleased with the validation of the ruling issued from the Supreme Court, and the fact that the court was in agreement on the interpretation we gave to the Restoration Act,” said Brant Martin, Tiguas Fort Worth attorney. “We anticipate proceeding with the litigation before the lower courts with the direction of the Supreme Court.”
Neil M. Gorsuch, in his majority opinion, said that the ruling doesn’t necessarily mean that tribes cannot provide any game they want within their territory. “None of this implies that the Tribe could provide gaming under any terms they choose,” he wrote. “The Restoration Act provides that the gaming activities that are prohibited by Texas laws are illegal on the tribal land under the provisions under Federal law.”
This means that other gambling activities are subject to tribal regulations, and must be in line with the rules and regulations “set by Federal law.” The case is scheduled to be referred before the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for more deliberations. However, tribes regard the ruling that was handed down on Wednesday as a clear victory.
The Restoration Act, passed by Congress in 1987, to grant recognition by the federal government to two Texas tribes, also includes the above-mentioned provision which prohibits the tribe from providing gambling which is not permitted in Texas. These are among the few tribes within the US that are not barred by the state government from providing gambling on their land..
Although the Tiguas have maintained for a long time that their gambling games on Speaking Rock are based on bingo, a game that is legal and controlled in Texas The state has claimed that its laws regarding bingo are not applicable to the games played by the tribe. The argument has been rejected in the majority of opinions.
“This is an important win for Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Indian Tribe after decades of defeats before the lower court,” said Ben Kappelman who is a partner of the international firm of lawyers Dorsey & Whitney which handles cases that involve Federal American Indian law issues, according to Texas Tribune.
In the end, Kappelman remarked that the ruling does not mean that tribal games are completely free of regulation. “They will just join the many tribes with gaming operations controlled under the National Indian Gaming Commission,” Kappelman said.
Gaming service provider AGS Chief Executive Officer David Lopez praised the ruling in a statement released on Thursday: “After an extremely long procedure in the judicial system, I’d like to express my gratitude to AGS and our Native American business partners and acquaintances for their much-deserved victory. This ruling allows the sovereign Tribes to have economic liberty and affirms their Federally recognized Tribes. AGS supports our Tribal Operator partners as they strive to make use of their rights and wishes them success in the future and in their current ventures as sovereign Tribes within Texas. We are proud of supporting all of our Native American partners throughout the country, and especially the Tribes who have endured so much and for so long to achieve their freedom in the economy.”
The legal dispute between Texas and Tiguas began in the mid-1990s when the tribe attempted to increase gambling on its territory as well as the State continually tried to get a deferral court to stop the attempts. The battle between the Alabama-Coushatta tribe has been similar to the one between the tribes of Texas and Tiguas.
Another federally recognized tribe located in Texas The Kickapoo also provides bingo-based gaming at its casino situated in Eagle Pass. The state has not brought a challenge to their gaming because the tribe is protected by a separate federal law than Tiguas and Alabama-Coushatta, which is The Indian Gaming and Regulatory Act.