Dear USET/USET SPF Family,
On June 15, 2022, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in favor of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in the case Ysleta del Sur Pueblo et al. v. Texas. Justice Gorsuch delivered the opinion of the Court, joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Barrett. The issue before the Court was whether the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama-Coushatta Indian Tribes of Texas Restoration Act (Restoration Act) prohibits as a matter of federal law all gaming activities on Tribal Lands, "which are prohibited by the laws of the State of Texas," extended to gaming activities regulated but not prohibited by Texas (such as bingo).
Shortly after enactment of the Restoration Act, Congress adopted the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which established rules for separate classes of gaming activities. Following the passage of IGRA, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo sought to negotiate a compact with Texas to offer Class III games, but the state refused arguing that the Restoration Act displaced IGRA and required the Tribal Nation to follow all the state’s gaming laws on its own Tribal Lands. In the litigation that followed, the District Court held that Texas violated IGRA by failing to negotiate in good faith. In Ysleta del Sur Pueblo v. Texas, 36 F.3d 1325 (5th Cir. 1994) (Ysleta I), the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Restoration Act’s directions superseded IGRA’s and guaranteed that the entirety of Texas’ gaming laws and regulations would operate as surrogate federal law to limit gaming activities on the Tribal Nation's reservation.
In 2016, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo began to offer bingo, including electronic bingo machines, on the view that IGRA treats bingo as a Class II game, which does not require state permission as long as the state permits the game to be played on some terms by some persons. However, the state of Texas then sought to shut down all the Tribal Nation’s bingo operations based on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in Ysleta I. In its decision, the Supreme Court concluded that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals misinterpreted the gaming prohibitions under the Restoration Act in Ysleta I. Further, it held that the Restoration Act bans, as a matter of federal law on Tribal Lands, only those gaming activities also banned in Texas. The case has been remanded back to the Fifth Circuit for reconsideration in light of the Supreme Court's decision.
USET SPF has consistently supported the right of our member Tribal Nation, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, to conduct gaming on its Tribal Lands without state interference. USET SPF has participated in the submission of a joint Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court as well as previous amici efforts, including those in a similar case brought by the Alabama-Coushatta. Because the two Tribal Nations are both subject to the Restoration Act, this ruling in Ysleta del Sur Pueblo et al. v. State of Texas is likely to assist Alabama-Coushatta in its gaming efforts. USET SPF congratulates both Tribal Nations on this monumental victory at the Supreme Court and celebrates the decision as a victory for all Tribal Nations dealing with the unjust ramifications of restrictive settlement acts.
For more information, please contact Brian Howard, USET SPF Senior Policy Analyst, at email@example.com.