Justia Gaming Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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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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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

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Plaintiffs, two American Indian tribes, business entities affiliated with the tribes, and individual tribe members, sued a number of non-tribal cardrooms alleging they were offering banked card games on non-tribal land, in violation of the exclusive right of Indian tribes to offer such games. Based on those allegations, plaintiffs asserted claims for public nuisance, unfair competition, declaratory and injunctive relief, and tortious interference with a contractual relationship and prospective economic advantage. The defendants demurred and, after two rounds of amendments to the complaint, the trial court sustained the third and final demurrer without leave to amend and entered judgment of dismissal. The court ruled that, as governmental entities, the Indian tribes and their affiliated business entities were not “persons” with standing to sue under the unfair competition law (UCL), and were not “private person[s]” with standing under the public nuisance statutes. The court further ruled the business entities and the individual tribe members failed to plead sufficient injury to themselves to establish standing to sue under the UCL or the public nuisance statutes. Although plaintiffs broadly framed the issue on appeal as whether they, as American Indians, had standing to redress their grievances in California state courts, the Court of Appeal determined it was much narrower: whether the complaint in this case adequately plead the asserted claims and contained allegations sufficient to establish the threshold issue of whether any of the named plaintiffs had standing to bring those claims. The Court agreed with the trial court’s conclusion that the complaint did not do so and, therefore, affirmed judgment in favor of the defendants. View "Rincon Band of Luiseno Mission Indians etc. v. Flynt" on Justia Law

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The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. 2719, allows a federally recognized Indian tribe to conduct gaming on lands taken into trust by the Secretary of the Interior as of October 17, 1988 and permits gaming on lands that are thereafter taken into trust for an Indian tribe that is restored to federal recognition where the tribe establishes a significant historical connection to the particular land. Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians regained its federal recognition in 1991 and requested an opinion on whether a Vallejo parcel would be eligible for tribal gaming. Yocha Dehe, a federally recognized tribe, objected. The Interior Department concluded that Scotts Valley failed to demonstrate the requisite “significant historical connection to the land.” Scotts Valley challenged the decision.Yocha Dehe moved to intervene to defend the decision alongside the government, explaining its interest in preventing Scotts Valley from developing a casino in the Bay Area, which would compete with Yocha Dehe’s gaming facility, and that the site Scotts Valley seeks to develop "holds cultural resources affiliated with [Yocha Dehe’s] Patwin ancestors.”The D.C. Circuit affirmed the denial of Yocha Dehe’s motion, citing lack of standing. Injuries from a potential future competitor are neither “imminent” nor “certainly impending.” There was an insufficient causal link between the alleged threatened injuries and the challenged agency action, given other steps required before Scotts Valley could operate a casino. Resolution of the case would not “as a practical matter impair or impede” the Tribe’s ability to protect its interests. View "Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation v. United States Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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The State of Alabama appealed a circuit court order that dismissed the State's claims seeking injunctive and declaratory relief "to abate a public nuisance of unlawful gambling," pursuant to section 6-5-120, Ala. Code 1975, against some, but not all, of the defendants. The circuit court certified its order as final pursuant to Rule 54(b), Ala. R. Civ. P. However, we determine that the order was not appropriate for Rule 54(b) certification; therefore, the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. View "Alabama v. Epic Tech, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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George Glassmeyer sent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the South Carolina Lottery Commission for information relating to million-dollar lottery winners. The Lottery Commission claimed the information sought was "personal" and "disclosure . . . would constitute unreasonable invasion of personal privacy." Instead, the Lottery Commission disclosed the hometown and state of each winner, the amount of each prize, the date of each prize, and the game associated with each prize. Glassmeyer responded that the Lottery Commission's disclosure did not satisfy his requests. The Lottery Commission then filed this lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that the release of lottery winners' names, addresses, telephone numbers, and forms of identification would constitute an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy under subsection 30-4-40(a)(2) and could be withheld. The Lottery Commission also sought injunctive relief preventing Glassmeyer from obtaining the information. The circuit court granted the Lottery Commission's motion and declared the release of the lottery winners' personal identifying information as an unreasonably invasion of personal privacy, and also entered an injunction permanently restraining Glassmeyer from seeking the lottery winners' full names, addresses, telephone numbers, and forms of identification. The court of appeals reversed, by the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed: "a proper injunction could restrict Glassmeyer only from seeking this information from the Lottery Commission. The Lottery Commission had no right to request an injunction permanently restraining Glassmeyer from seeking this information from any source, and the circuit court had no authority to prevent Glassmeyer from doing so." View "South Carolina Lottery Commission v. Glassmeyer" on Justia Law

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In appeals consolidated for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review, the circuit court affirmed the decision of the Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC) to deny the gaming site application of RW Development, LLC (RW). The MGC and the circuit court found that RW’s proposed gaming site failed to meet the governing statutory and regulatory requirements under Mississippi Code Section 97-33-1 (Rev. 2014) in the first instance, and 13 Mississippi Administrative Code Part 2, Rule 1.4(d) (adopted May 1, 2013), Westlaw, in the second. The Supreme Court concurred with the Commission and circuit court that: (1) in case No. 2019-SA-01813-SCT, RW failed to provide evidence that its proposed gaming site was within eight hundred feet of the MHWL; and (2) in case No. 2019-SA-01815-SCT, RW failed to establish that the mean high water line point of reference was located on RW’s premises, that RW owned or leased the land contiguous to the point of reference and its proposed gaming site, and that the land would play an integral part in RW's project. View "RW Development, LLC v. Mississippi Gaming Commission" on Justia Law

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Two appeals were consolidated for the purposes of this opinion: case no. 1180675 ("the Lowndes County case"), the State appealed the Lowndes Circuit Court's order granting the motions to dismiss filed by Epic Tech, LLC; White Hall Enrichment Advancement Team d/b/a Southern Star Entertainment; White Hall Entertainment; and the White Hall Town Council (collectively, "the Lowndes County defendants"); case no. 1180794 ("the Macon County case"), the State appealed the Macon Circuit Court's order granting the motions to dismiss filed by Epic Tech, LLC, and K.C. Economic Development, LLC, d/b/a VictoryLand Casino ("KCED")(collectively, "the Macon County defendants"). In 2017, the State sued the Lowndes County defendants asserting a public-nuisance claim. In a second amended complaint, the State asserted it was seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to abate a public nuisance of unlawful gambling through continued operation of illegal slot machines and other "unlawful gambling devices." The Lowndes County defendants moved to dismiss, raising, amongst other defenses, that the State failed to join the operators of two Wind Creek casinos. The Lowndes Circuit Court ultimately granted the motion to dismiss, finding it did not have subject-matter jurisdiction to grant the relief the State requested. The State also sued defendants in Macon County Circuit court, again alleging public nuisance from operation of illegal slot machines. Again, the State requested declaratory and injunctive relief. The Macon County court likewise dismissed on grounds it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction.The State argued on appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court that the circuit courts erred in concluding they lacked subject matter jurisdiction over their respective cases. The Supreme Court concurred with the State and reversed the circuit courts. The matters were remanded for further proceedings. View "Alabama v. Epic Tech, LLC, et al." on Justia Law