In Ysleta del Sur Pueblo v. Texas the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether federal law allows Texas to impose its bingo regulations on the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Indian tribe.

The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Indian tribe owns the Speaking Rock Entertainment Center in El Paso, Texas. Texas concluded its electronic machines and live-called bingo did not comply with state law and bingo regulations. The Pueblo claimed their bingo operations doesn’t have to comply Texas’s regulations.    

The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama and Coushatta Indian Tribes of Texas Restoration Act of 1987 restored the Pueblo tribe’s federal tribal status. It prohibits the tribes from conducting “[a]ll gaming activities which are prohibited by the laws of the State of Texas.”

Texas argued that the Restoration Act controls the outcome of this case. According to Texas, per the Restoration Act, Texas gaming law “functions as surrogate federal law” on the land of Restoration Act tribes.

A year after the Restoration Act was passed Congress enacted the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). IGRA allows Indian tribes “to regulate gaming activity on Indian lands if the gaming activity is not specifically prohibited by Federal law and is conducted within a State which does not, as a matter of criminal law and public policy, prohibit such gaming activity.”

The Pueblo argued that the IGRA controls in this case because the Restoration Act and the IGRA can’t be applied harmoniously. The Restoration Act disallows gaming activities prohibited by state law. But Texas law regulates bingo, it doesn’t prohibit it. In support of its position the Pueblo cite to California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians (1987), decided before the Restoration Act was passed. In that case the Supreme Court held California could not enforce its gaming restrictions against a tribe because California law regulated but did not prohibit bingo.

The Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of Texas holding that the Restoration Act applied and that the Pueblo must follow Texas’s bingo regulations. The Fifth Circuit relied on a 25-year-old circuit case involving the same parties, which it described as “squarely on point.” In Ysleta Ithe Fifth Circuit held that “Congress—and the Tribe—intended for Texas’ gaming laws and regulations to operate as surrogate federal law on the Tribe’s reservation in Texas.”

The impact of this case is limited as the Restoration Act only applies to two tribes.

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