Justia Gaming Law Opinion Summaries

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In 2017, the State of Alabama sued, among others, Epic Tech, LLC ("Epic Tech"); K.C. Economic Development, LLC, d/b/a VictoryLand ("KCED"); and Sheriff Andre Brunson, in his official capacity as sheriff of Macon County (referred to collectively as "the Macon County defendants"). At around that same time, the State sued, White Hall Enrichment Advancement Team d/b/a Southern Star Entertainment ("Southern Star") and White Hall (referred to collectively as "the Lowndes County defendants"). In each action, the State sought an order declaring the illegal gambling operations conducted by the defendants to be a public nuisance and related injunctive relief. The State's complaint in each action was also accompanied by a motion seeking the entry of an order preliminarily enjoining the defendants from engaging in illegal gambling operations. In case nos. 1200798 and 1210064, the State appealed Macon Circuit Court and Lowndes Circuit Court orders denying the State's requests for injunctive relief. In case no. 1210122, defendants/counterclaim plaintiffs White Hall Entertainment and the White Hall Town Council (referred to collectively as "White Hall"), cross-appealed the Lowndes Circuit Court's order dismissing their counterclaims against the State. The Alabama Supreme Court consolidated these appeals. In case no. 1200798, the Court reversed the Macon Circuit Court order denying the State's request for preliminary injunctive relief and remanded the matter for that court to enter, within 30 days, a preliminary injunction enjoining the defendants' gambling operations in Macon County; in case no. 1210064, the Court reversed the Lowndes Circuit Court order denying the State's request for permanent injunctive relief and remanded the matter for that court to enter, within 30 days, a permanent injunction enjoining the defendants' gambling operations in Lowndes County; and in case no. 1210122, the Court affirmed the Lowndes Circuit Court's order dismissing White Hall's counterclaims. View "White Hall Entertainment, et al. v. Alabama" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation and assert an ancestral right to fish in the Shinnecock Bay without interference. Over the past decade, state officials ticketed and prosecuted Plaintiffs for violating state fishing laws. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent the further enforcement of the regulations as well as damages based on allegations of discrimination in past enforcement. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants.The Second Circuit found that Ex Parte Young applies to Plaintiffs’ fishing-rights claims against the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) officials— but not against the DEC itself—because Plaintiffs allege an ongoing violation of federal law and seek prospective relief against state officials. Thus, the district court erred in granting summary judgment to the DEC officials on Plaintiffs’ claims for declaratory and injunctive relief. However, the district court properly granted summary judgment on the discrimination claims because there is no evidence in the record that would permit an inference of discriminatory intent. View "Silva v. Farrish" on Justia Law

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The Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Mewuk Indians (“tribes”) alleged that California violated Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (“IGRA”) by failing to act in good faith in the parties’ negotiations for compacts for the tribes to conduct high-stakes Las Vegas style casino gambling, known as Class III gaming. The district court concluded that California’s demand for tribal enforcement of state domestic support orders “pulled negotiations into a field wholly collateral to the operation of gaming facilities” and thus constituted “per se evidence of bad faith.” The district court concluded that other disputed provisions were “somewhat connected” to gaming and thus not a per se violation of the State’s good-faith duty, but California nevertheless was required to provide “meaningful concessions” in exchange for demanding these provisions, and the State’s failure to do so was a failure to negotiate in good faith, triggering IGRA’s remedial provisions.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed, on different grounds, the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the tribes. The court held that through its insistence on family law, environmental law, and tort provisions, California substantially exceeded IGRA’s limitation that any Class III compact provision be directly related to the operation of gaming activities. The court further held that when, as here, a State seeks to negotiate for compact provisions that fall well outside IGRA's seven permissible topics of negotiation, as set forth in an exhaustive list in 25 U.S.C. Section 2710(d)(3)(C), the State has not acted in good faith. View "CHICKEN RANCH RANCHERIA V. STATE OF CALIFORNIA" on Justia Law

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The State of Texas sought to enjoin the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo from holding live-called and electronic bingo. The district court granted the injunction and the Fifth Circuit upheld it under its prior decisions.   In light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Texas v. Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, 955 F.3d 508 (5th Cir. 2020), overruled by No. 20- 493, 2022 WL 2135494 (2022), the Fifth Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded for further proceedings. The court wrote that the Supreme Court granted the Pueblo’s petition and rejected Texas’s contention that Congress has allowed all of the state’s gaming laws to operate as surrogate federal law enforceable on the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Reservation.   Under the Court’s interpretation of the Restoration Act, “if a gaming activity is prohibited by Texas law”—that is, absolutely “banned in Texas”—then “it is also prohibited on tribal land as a matter of federal law.” But if the gaming activity is merely regulated by Texas law—that is, “by fixing the time, place, and manner in which the game may be conducted”—then it’s only “subject to tribal regulation” and “the terms and conditions set forth in federal law, including [the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act] to the extent it is applicable.” View "State of TX v. Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, et al" on Justia Law

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In 2003, the Alabama Legislature and the citizens of Greene County voted to allow nonprofit organizations in that county to operate bingo games for fundraising purposes. Greenetrack, Inc. ("Greenetrack"), which was not a nonprofit organization, almost immediately began offering live and electronic bingo games at its gambling facility. From 2004 to 2008, Greenetrack reaped vast profits under the guise that its whole casino-style bingo operation was constantly being leased and operated by a revolving slate of local nonprofit organizations, whose nominal role earned them a tiny fraction of the bingo proceeds. Eventually, the Alabama Department of Revenue ("the Department") audited Greenetrack, found that its bingo activities were illegal, and concluded that it owed over $76 million in unpaid taxes and interest. Following a decade of litigation, the Alabama Tax Tribunal voided the assessed taxes on the threshold ground that Greenetrack's bingo business (regardless of its legality) was tax-immune under a statute governing Greenetrack's status as a licensed operator of dog races. The Department appealed, and the Alabama Supreme Court reversed, rejecting the statutory analysis offered by the Tax Tribunal and circuit court. Judgment was rendered in favor of the Department. View "Alabama Department of Revenue v. Greenetrack, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1968, Congress recognized the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Indian tribe. In 1983, Texas renounced its trust responsibilities with respect to the Tribe and expressed opposition to any new federal legislation that did not permit the state to apply its gaming laws on tribal lands. Congress restored the Tribe’s federal trust status in the 1987 Restoration Act, “prohibiting” all “gaming activities which are prohibited by the laws of the State of Texas.” Congress then adopted the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which permitted Tribes to offer class II games—like bingo—in states that “permi[t] such gaming for any purpose by any person, organization or entity,” 25 U.S.C. 2710(b)(1)(A). IGRA allowed Tribes to offer class III games—like blackjack and baccarat—only pursuant to negotiated tribal/state compacts. Texas refused to negotiate a compact regarding class III games. In 1994, the Fifth Circuit held that the Restoration Act superseded IGRA.In 2016, the Tribe began offering bingo, including “electronic bingo.” The Fifth Circuit upheld an injunction, shutting down all of the Tribe’s bingo operations.The Supreme Court vacated. The Restoration Act bans, on tribal lands, only those gaming activities also banned in Texas. Texas laws do not “forbid,” “prevent,” or “make impossible” bingo operations but allow the game according to rules concerning time, place, and manner. Texas’s bingo laws are regulatory, not prohibitory. When Congress adopted the Restoration Act, Supreme Court precedent held that California’s bingo laws—materially identical to Texas’s laws—were regulatory and that only “prohibitory” state gaming laws could be applied on the Indian lands in question, not state “regulatory” gaming laws. 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 IGRA. View "Ysleta del Sur Pueblo v. Texas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the superior court dismissing FBT's claim against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission alleging intentional interference with a contract and granting summary judgment on the remaining regulatory taking claim, holding that summary judgment on the regulatory takings claim was improper.Plaintiff brought this suit against the Commission alleging various claims including tortious interference with contract and a regulatory taking after the Commission refused to allow Plaintiff to receive a "casino-use premium" on the sale of a parcel of land in Everett. The superior court dismissed the tortious interference claim and granted summary judgment on the regulatory takings claim. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the grant of summary judgment on the regulatory takings claim, holding that there were material disputed facts at issue precluding summary judgment. View "FBT Everett Realty, LLC v. Massachusetts Gaming Commission" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a non-profit group composed of small business owners who fish in the Bay Area, sued various government agencies seeking to prevent the enforcement of a commercial fishing prohibition that applies generally in national parks. Plaintiff claims that the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) does not confer with National Park Service with the ability to regulate offshore waters. The district court granted summary judgment to the government entities.The Ninth Circuit affirmed, finding that the text and structure of the GGNRA Act confirm that Congress has given the Park Service administrative jurisdiction over the waters in question. Nothing in the GGNRA Act supports the Plaintiff's position, that the Park Service must first establish a property interest in the waters from the State of California. View "SAN FRANCISCO HERRING ASSOC. V. USDOI" on Justia Law

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After a hearing, the California Gambling Control Commission (Commission) revoked and refused to renew the gambling license of cross-appellant Eric Swallow. The Commission also imposed a monetary penalty and costs against Swallow. Swallow petitioned the trial court for a writ of mandate, challenging the revocation and nonrenewal of his gambling license, the amount of the monetary penalty, and the costs. The trial court granted Swallow’s petition in part and denied it in part, concluding the Commission did not violate Swallow’s due process rights when it revoked and refused to renew Swallow’s gambling license, except that the Commission may have relied on unproven misconduct. The trial court therefore remanded to the Commission “to ensure that Swallow is not disciplined based on misconduct that was not proven.” The trial court also concluded the amount of the monetary penalty imposed by the Commission was not supported by law, and the costs could only be assessed by the ALJ on remand. It therefore vacated the penalty and costs imposed and remanded for the Commission to redetermine the amount of the penalty and to refer the issue of costs to the ALJ. Both the Commission and Swallow appealed. The Court of Appeal concluded: (1) Business and Professions Code section 19930(c), when considered within the statutory and regulatory framework of the Gambling Control Act, did not authorize the monetary penalty; (2) the Commission had jurisdiction to revoke Swallow’s gambling license; (3) the Commission did not violate Swallow’s due process rights; (4) Swallow failed to present a proper argument challenging the sufficiency of the evidence; and (5) the trial court properly remanded the issue of costs for further proceedings. The Court modified the judgment granting the peremptory writ of mandate to order the Commission to reconsider the monetary penalty in a manner consistent with its opinion instead of the trial court’s order. View "Swallow v. Cal. Gambling Control Commission" on Justia Law

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Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. (Blizzard) appealed an order denying its motion to compel arbitration. B.D., a minor, played Blizzard’s online videogame “Overwatch,” and used “real money” to make in-game purchases of “Loot Boxes” - items that offer “randomized chances . . . to obtain desirable or helpful ‘loot’ in the game.” B.D. and his father (together, Plaintiffs) sued Blizzard, alleging the sale of loot boxes with randomized values constituted unlawful gambling, and, thus, violated the California Unfair Competition Law (UCL). Plaintiffs sought only prospective injunctive relief, plus attorney fees and costs. Blizzard moved to compel arbitration based on the dispute resolution policy incorporated into various iterations of the online license agreement that Blizzard presented to users when they signed up for, downloaded, and used Blizzard’s service. The trial court denied the motion, finding a “reasonably prudent user would not have inquiry notice of the agreement” to arbitrate because “there was no conspicuous notice of an arbitration” provision in any of the license agreements. The Court of Appeal disagreed: the operative version of Blizzard’s license agreement was presented to users in an online pop-up window that contained the entire agreement within a scrollable text box. View "B.D. v. Blizzard Entertainment" on Justia Law