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American News Jun 15, 2022 3:29 PM EST

BREAKING: SCOTUS sides with Native American tribe in Texas casino case

Gorsuch wrote that the two parties in the case have "two very different accounts of the Restoration Act."

BREAKING: SCOTUS sides with Native American tribe in Texas casino case
Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court sided with Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Indian Tribe in a case against Texas gambling officials regarding gaming activities that went against Texas laws, but were permitted under federal legislation.

The Tribe had sought to bring class three games, like blackjack and baccarat, to their reservation, but Texas refused, stating that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) passed by Congress in 1988 was displaced by the Ysleta del Sur and Alabama and Coushatta Indian Tribes of Texas Restoration Act.

The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo has a reservation near El Paso, Texas, with the tribe including more than 4,000 members. It is one of three federal recognized Indian Tribes in the state.

A summary of the ruling stated that Texas’ Restoration Act "bans as a matter of federal law on tribal lands only those gaming activities also banned in Texas."

"The State reads the Act as effectively subjecting the Tribe to the entire body of Texas gaming laws and regulations. The Tribe, however, understands the Act to bar it from offering only those gaming activities the State fully prohibits, and that if Texas merely regulates bingo, the Tribe may also offer that game subject only to federal-law, not state-law, limitations," Gorsuch wrote.

The summary stated that the language of Section 107 of the law, "particularly its dichotomy between prohibition and regulation," had presented a problem for the state of Texas.

"Texas concedes that its laws do not 'forbid,' 'prevent,' 'effectively stop,' or 'make impossible’ bingo operations in the State," the summary stated.

Referencing rules regarding bingo in the state, Gorsuch wrote that the state admitted it allows the game to be played "according to the rules" that "fix the time," manner, and place in which it may be played.

"From this alone, Texas’s bingo laws appear to fall on the regulatory rather than prohibitory side of the line. In response, Texas describes its laws as “prohibiting” bingo unless the State’s regulations are followed and insists that it is merely seeking to do what subsection (a) allows," the summary stated.

The summary said that Texas’ understanding of the word "prohibit" risks making the Restoration Act an "indeterminate mess."

Gorsuch said that "Native American Tribes possess 'inherent sovereign authority over their members and territories.'"

The tribe began offering bingo games back in 2016, with Gorsuch saying the Tribe thought "it was free to offer at least this game because IGRA treats bingo as a class II game for which no state permission is required so long as the State permits the game to be played on some terms by some persons."

The Tribe offered not only traditional forms of bingo played in places like churches, but also electronic bingo, played on machines that look similar to slot machines.

The state sought to shut down these operations, stating that the Restoration Act "forbids the Tribe from defying any of the State’s gaming regulations. And, Texas stressed, under its laws bingo remains permissible today only for charitable purposes and only subject to a broad array of regulations," Gorsuch wrote.

Gorsuch wrote that the two parties in the case have "two very different accounts of the Restoration Act."

Texas read the Act as subjecting the Tribe to the gaming laws and regulations of the state.

The Tribe understood the Act to bar it from offering gaming activities that are fully prohibited in the state.

"The Tribe submits, if Texas merely regulates a game like bingo, it may offer that game—and it may do so subject only to the limits found in federal law and its own law, not state law," Gorsuch wrote.

"Texas contends that Congress in the Restoration Act has allowed all of its state gaming laws to act as surrogate federal law on tribal lands," Gorsuch wrote.

"The Fifth Circuit took the same view in Ysleta I and in the proceedings below. That understanding of the law is mistaken. The Restoration Act bans as a matter of federal law on tribal lands only those gaming activities also banned in Texas. To allow the Fifth Circuit to revise its precedent and reconsider this case in the correct light, its judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion," he concluded.

Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh dissented with the decision.

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