Tribal gaming in Texas wins major victory

Fight over Texas tribal gaming lands before SCOTUS

HOUSTON – The US Supreme Court just handed a major victory to the Alabama-Coushatta and Ysleta del Sur Pueblo tribes of Texas. In a split, 5-4 decision, the Justices ruled Texas cannot prevent the tribes from offering electronic bingo gaming on these reservations.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office has been trying to shut down casinos on these reservations, claiming the 1987 Restoration Act gave Texas the authority to regulate Tribal gaming on these reservations.

RELATED: Fight over Texas tribal gaming lands before SCOTUS

These reservations are unique in that both were restored to federal trust status in 1987 under the “Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama and Coushatta Indian Tribes of Texas Restoration Act.” However, the Restoration Act contained a provision that barred these two tribal nations from conducting gambling activities that are prohibited by the state of Texas. The Kickapoo reservation near Eagle Pass does not fall under the same law, which is why that Tribal nation has been allowed to operate the Lucky Eagle casino.

The issue before the U.S. Supreme Court was initiated by Ysleta and supported by Alabama-Coushatta. Essentially, the tribes argued since Texas does not outright ban bingo, they can operate gaming facilities that offer bingo on their reservations. However, Texas argues it only allows charitable, not-for-profit bingo and the high-stakes, for-profit bingo offered on the reservations goes far beyond what the state allows.

“In the end, however, we find no evidence Congress endowed state law with anything like the power Texas claims,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority.

This ruling vacates an earlier ruling from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that went against the tribes. SCOTUS vacated that ruling and sent the matter back to the 5th Circuit “for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

See Ruling. (Not seeing this document? Click here to view.)

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Award winning investigative journalist who joined KPRC 2 in July 2000. Husband and father of the Master of Disaster and Chaos Gremlin. “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.”