Gaming law deals with the legal rules and regulations of casinos and gambling. Because Indian tribes today operate so many casinos, many gaming law issues are also Indian and Native American law matters.
Indian gaming law reflects a compromise between the rights of Indian tribes to engage in gaming activities free of state intervention and the interests of states in regulating activities that occur within their boundaries. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) represents this balance of power.
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which is administered by the National Indian Gaming Commission, provides the entire statutory framework for Indian gaming. The act applies to all “Indian lands,” which are defined as all lands within the limits of any Indian reservation. Under IGRA, Indian gaming is divided into three categories:
- Class I gaming – includes social and traditional games and is within the exclusive jurisdiction of Indian tribes.
- Class II gaming – includes bingo and games similar to bingo that can be operated by a tribe if it is located in a state that permits that type of gaming and if it is authorized by tribal resolution or ordinance.
- Class III gaming – includes all types of gaming that is neither class I or class II gaming and is by far the most important type of gaming for tribal enterprises. Class III gaming typically involves the Indian Casinos. This type of gaming must occur in a state that permits gaming for any purpose, by any person, or entity and must also be authorized by tribal resolution or ordinance. In addition, there must be a contract negotiated between the tribe and state, which defines how the class III gaming will be conducted.
The revenues derived from gaming by Indian tribes can be used only for specified purposes such as:
- To fund tribal government operations or programs
- To provide for the general welfare of the tribe and its members
- To promote tribal economic development
- To donate to charitable organizations
- To help fund operations of local government agencies
If you have a dispute or question involving Indian gaming law, you should consult with an entertainment attorney who is knowledgeable in both gaming and Indian law. Indian tribes operate under a unique set of rules that reflect the delicate balance between tribal sovereign immunity and U.S. sovereignty. Speaking with a lawyer experienced in gaming law will help you understand your rights.