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Supreme Court sides with Texas tribes on bingo games

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling June 15 concerning electronic bingo at two Texas tribes. (File photo)

After a long legal battle with the state of Texas, a U.S. Supreme Court decision allows two Texas tribes to conduct electronic bingo games at their facilities.

The court’s 5-4 ruling issued June 15, determined the Texas tribes have the autonomy to regulate electronic bingo games on their lands in compliance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, like most other U.S. tribes, regardless of the state’s rules on bingo, which is permitted in the state of Texas.

The tribes involved in the legal process are the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Reservation (near El Paso and known as the Tiguas) and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas (north of Houston), which operate the Speaking Rock and Naskila gaming facilities, respectively.

“The court’s decision is an affirmation of tribal sovereignty and a victory for the Texas economy,” Ricky Sylestine, chair of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas’ tribal council, said in a statement June 15. “The highest court in the land has made clear that our tribe has the right to legally operate electronic bingo on our reservation, just as we have the past six years.”

However in the majority opinion, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch emphasized that the ruling doesn’t mean Native American tribes can offer any games they choose on their lands.

“None of this is to say that the tribe may offer gaming on whatever terms it wishes. The Restoration Act provides that a gaming activity prohibited by Texas law is also prohibited on tribal land as a matter of federal law,” Gorsuch wrote. “Other gaming activities are subject to tribal regulation and must conform to the terms and conditions set forth in federal law.”

Texas’ lawyers have argued that the electronic bingo machines are like slot machines, which are banned by Texas, and thus forbidden as a matter of federal law.

For more, read a report in the Texas Tribune here.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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