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Gambling - Native American Tribal Gambling

indian tribes igra california

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, 480 U.S. 202 (1987), holding that California had no authority, on Indian lands, to enforce its criminal statutes forbidding bingo. The Court declared that gambling is a legitimate tourist activity, like hunting and fishing, for Indians to exploit. Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in 1988 to provide a statutory basis for conducting gambling on Indian lands. IGRA divides gambling into three classes: Class I consists of traditional tribal games; Class II consists of games such as bingo, lotto, and punch cards. If these games, such as charity bingo, are permitted by a state and do not violate federal law, they may be conducted on Indian lands without state approval. Class III consists of all other games, especially casino games, parimutual racing, and jai alai. To introduce casino gaming, IGRA requires states to negotiate compacts with Indians. From 1988, when IGRA was passed, to 1997, revenues from tribal gaming grew more than thirtyfold from $212 million to $6.7 billion (National Gambling Impact Study Commission, p. 6–1,2).

Nevertheless, disputes have arisen between states and Indian tribes over the requirements of IGRA in the areas of regulation, the scope of permitted gambling activities, and the requirement that states negotiate in good faith with tribes. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44 (1996), held that, under the Eleventh Amendment, Congress was forbidden from authorizing suits by Indian tribes to bring states to the bargaining table to negotiate a gaming compact. This decision, in effect, invalidated the good faith negotiation requirement of IGRA.

By no means, however, did the Seminole decision portend an end to the expansion of Class III (casino) gambling sponsored by Indian tribes. States could voluntarily negotiate with Indian tribes, as Connecticut had earlier with the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, who built and ran the highest-grossing casino in the world. In September 1999, California's governor and legislature ratified gaming compacts with fifty-seven tribes. In March 2000, California voters passed a constitutional proposition ratifying these compacts and legalizing a major expansion of Indian casino gambling in California.

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