Justia Gaming Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in U.S. Supreme Court
The State of Michigan entered into a compact with the Bay Mills Indian Community pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), 25 U.S.C. 2710(d)(1)(C). The compact authorizes Bay Mills to conduct class III gaming activities (a casino) on Indian lands within the state, but prohibits it from doing so outside that territory. Bay Mills opened a second casino on land it had purchased through a congressionally established land trust. The Tribe claimed it could operate a casino there because the property qualified as Indian land. Michigan sued under section 2710(d)(7)(A)(ii), which allows a state to enjoin gaming activity conducted in violation of any tribal-state compact. The district court granted the injunction, but the Sixth Circuit vacated, holding that tribal sovereign immunity barred the suit unless Congress provided otherwise; section 2710(d)(7)(A)(ii) only authorized suits to enjoin gaming activity located “on Indian lands,” while the complaint alleged the casino was outside such territory. The Supreme Court affirmed. As “domestic dependent nations,” Indian tribes exercise “inherent sovereign authority” that is subject to plenary control by Congress; unless Congress acts, the tribes retain their historic sovereign authority. Among the core aspects of that sovereignty is “common-law immunity from suit traditionally enjoyed by sovereign powers,” which applies whether a suit is brought by a state or arises from a tribe’s commercial activities off Indian lands. IGRA’s plain terms do not authorize this suit. Section 2710(d)(7)(A)(ii) partially abrogates tribal immunity with respect to class III gaming located “on Indian lands,” but the premise of Michigan’s suit is that Bay Mills’ casino is unlawful because it is outside Indian lands. Michigan argues that the casino is licensed and operated from within the reservation and that such administrative action constitutes “class III gaming activity.” IGRA’s provisions and history indicate that “class III gaming activity” refers to the gambling that goes on in a casino, not the offsite licensing of such games. View "Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Cmty" on Justia Law