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Supreme Court Approves Texas Tribal Bingo

The Supreme Court of the United States reaffirmed the right of two Texas Indian tribes to offer games at their casinos that are not specifically prohibited by the State of Texas. The ruling ends a five-year battle between the State and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo tribe near El Paso, also known as the Tiguas, and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas over the legality of the tribes’ electronic bingo machines.

In short, Justice Neil Gorsuch ruled that Texas could not prevent or regulate games that are not specifically prohibited by state law. The ruling also reaffirmed the rule of the federal government over tribal gaming. In short, efforts by the State of Texas to prevent tribes from offering games like bingo, simply isn’t allowed, no matter what the ten-gallon hats in the Texas State Legislature think.

Commenting on the 5-4 decision in a statement reported on by the Texas Tribune, Ricky Sylestine, chair of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas’ Tribal Council lauded the ruling saying, “The Court’s decision is an affirmation of Tribal sovereignty and a victory for the Texas economy The highest Court in the land has made clear that our Tribe has the right to legally operate electronic bingo on our reservation, just as we have the past six years.”

In his opinion, Justice Gorsuch made it clear that tribal gaming will still be regulated saying, “None of this is to say that the Tribe may offer gaming on whatever terms it wishes. The Restoration Act provides that a gaming activity prohibited by Texas law is also prohibited on tribal land as a matter of federal law. Other gaming activities are subject to tribal regulation and must conform to the terms and conditions set forth in federal law.”