Bryan Newland: Bill grants states a veto over tribal gaming rights

A row of gaming machines at the Fantasy Springs Casino Resort, owned and operated by the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians in Indio, California. The tribe won the U.S. Supreme Court case that affirmed the rights of tribes to engage in gaming on their lands. Photo from Facebook

A new bill that amends the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act is drawing more attention. H.R.5079, the California Compact Protection Act, is aimed at two California tribes but attorney Bryan Newland, a member of the Bay Mills Indian Community, argues that it could carry a dramatic impact throughout Indian Country:
H.R. 5079 would be remarkable for several reasons. First, it would mark the first amendment to IGRA’s compact provisions in the law’s 28-year history. Second, it would constitute a federal rebuke of California’s policy decision to give full effect to IGRA. Third, it would enshrine the Seminole decision into IGRA itself – marking a significant departure from the compromise approved by Congress in 1988.

This last point merits some emphasis. As explained above, Congress passed IGRA in the face of significant opposition from Indian country. That opposition was based on concerns that IGRA’s compact language could be used to deny the inherent rights recognized in the Cabazon decision. Congress responded to those concerns by assuring Indian country that its inherent rights were not subject to a state veto (unless the state itself opted to outlaw gambling in all of its forms). H.R. 5079 would mark a dramatic shift in congressional policy, because it would modify IGRA to subject tribes to a state veto of the rights recognized in Cabazon.

Given the amount of litigation pending around the country on these issues, combined with the legislative process, it is very possible that H.R. 5079 could be expanded to affect tribal-state gaming compacts across the country – further solidifying the Seminole decision as federal policy. Watching this play out will be very interesting.

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Bryan Newland: Placing Proposed Amendments to IGRA in Historical Context (Turtle Talk 5/16)

Tribal Leader Opinions on H.R.5079, the California Compact Protection Act:
Maryann McGovran: Don't be fooled by efforts of 'wealthy' tribes (5/13)
Claudia Gonzales: Off-reservation gaming fuels attacks on tribes (5/13)

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