Tribal Gaming May be Legalized in Texas via the Supreme Court
The United States Supreme Court is being pushed by the current administration to recognize two tribes in Texas as their rights to offer casino gaming.
Casino gambling is currently illegal in the state of Texas. However, that may soon change. The Biden administration is pushing the US Supreme Court to see gaming become a reality for two tribes in the state, the Alabama Coushatta and the Tigua. While this would be great news of the Texas tribes, it could pave the way for tribes in other states to offer services as well.
What’s Going On?
Brian Fletcher is the acting US Solicitor General who recently wrote a letter to the US Supreme Court asking that they take up the case involving the Texas tribes. In a memo, Fletcher said that in a former ruling by the court, the tribes were banned from providing such gams. This is an error according to the Solicitor General.
Fletcher is now asking for the highest court in the land to provide clarity on the issue. He says the Texas tribes are at a disadvantage due to the ruling. It seems the court my look at the case and if a change is made, it could mean major implications for the tribes in the state as well as in other states.
Tribes in Rhode Island, Maine, and Massachusetts would be affected by a ruling change, and their tribes would be strengthened to offer casino games as well. Many think the odds are good that a review of the case in Texas could lead to major gambling changes for tribes in several states.
The Yselta del Sur Pueblo (Tigua) and the Alabama and Coushatta Indian Tribes have been fighting the state for years regarding rights to offer casino games. Way back in 1986, the two tribes were recognized in the state and given sovereign status. However, the Texas Restoration Act also banned the tribes from offering casino gaming.
It was just two years later that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed by Congress. This act established regulations for casinos operated by Native American tribes. The rights of a tribe were protected to offer Class II gaming on sovereign lands. The Texas tribes narrowly missed out on this legislation and felt it was unfair that they would be restricted from offering such gaming options.
Fast forward to 1994, and the Fifth Circuit ruled that gaming rights for the Tigua were governed by the Texas Restoration Act and not the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. This stopped both tribes from being able to open casinos in Texas.
It is that ruling that Fletcher would like to see the US Supreme Court take up. If the court reviews the case and finds that the tribes should be allowed to offer services, then other tribes across the United States that are affected by laws predating the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act would be able to argue their status to offer gambling services.
While the review would be a good start, the issue would have a long way to go before tribes in other states would be able to offer services. One obstacle would be the Carcieri decision from 2009. In this ruling, it was stated that the federal government could not place land into trusts for tribes that were not located under federal jurisdiction in 1934, when the Indian Reorganization Act was approved.
This decision has been harmful in the past, affecting the ability of tribes in several states to offer gambling services. It will certainly be interesting to see where this case goes and if the Supreme Court will consider it.