US Indian tribes won a major victory on Monday when the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that California had no right to compel tribes to pay gaming revenues into the state’s general fund. The decision follows the recommendation of President Obama’s solicitor general, who earlier this month submitted a brief formally urging the Supremes to let the lower court’s ruling stand.
The suit originated when the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians sought to expand the number of slot machines at its casino, which California said it would only allow if the tribe paid a percentage of the profits from the machines into state coffers. The tribe claimed this condition was a violation of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and a court agreed. The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision, and now that the Supremes have denied California’s bid, the parties have two months to work out an acceptable compromise before a mediator makes a final decision.
Under the federal law, states can only compel tribes to make payments related to offsetting the cost of regulating their gaming operations and the potential negative effects of gambling, as well as assisting tribes in the same state with no gaming operations. If a state wishes to compel tribes to pay something extra, then the state is required to offer some meaningful concessions in return. On that note, we remind everyone that California is scheduled to hold hearings on July 12 for their two proposed intrastate online poker bills – from which California’s tribes hope to reap some (ahem) meaningful benefit.
The impact of Monday’s decision may have already rippled beyond California’s borders. On Tuesday, South Dakota reached an agreement on a new gaming compact with the Falandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, just days before the two sides were to appear in court. The deal allows the tribe to double its current stable of 250 slot machines at its Royal River Casino. So is the timing coincidental, or did the Supremes’ decision cause South Dakota to see the handwriting on the wall?
It’s worth noting the comment made by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals when it originally found in favor of the Rincons. The court reminded the state of “our nation’s too-frequent breach of its trust obligations to Native Americans when some of its politically and economically powerful citizens and states have lusted after what little the Native Americans have possessed.” Those powerful citizens and states may have done all the lusting in the past, but its the tribes that are sporting the giant hard-ons tonight.