Supreme Court declines to hear appeals in two gaming cases


Artist's rendering of what was to be the Red Clay Casino on an Indian allotment in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. The project is no longer on the table. Image from Kialegee Tribal Town

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected petitions in two Indian gaming cases, handing defeat to two states in the process.

The state of Oklahoma asked the justices to hear Oklahoma v. Hobia. At issue was a proposal by the Kialegee Tribal Town to open a casino on an Indian allotment near Tulsa.

A December 2014 ruling from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals protected the tribe and its leaders from being sued without their consent. But even though the tribe withdrew plans for the casino, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) sought to overturn the decision.

The justices declined to hear Pruitt's appeal in an order list that didn't offer an explanation. But their move solidifies their May 2014 decision in Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community, another tribal immunity case.

In that decision, the high court held that states cannot sue tribes for activities that do not occur within the scope of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The precedent was cited by the 10th Circuit in the Kialegee case and has already had an impact in other tribal-state disputes across the country.


The Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison facility in Wisconsin. Photo from Facebook

Sovereign immunity wasn't at issue in Wisconsin v. Ho-Chunk Nation, the second Indian gaming case rejected on Monday. But it also centered around a tribal-state dispute.

The state of Wisconsin sought to prevent the Ho-Chunk Nation from offering electronic poker at its gaming facility in Madison. The Class III gaming compact does not cover the site so the state contend the machines were illegal.

An April 2015 decision from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, determined that the games fall into the Class II category, outside of state control. That ruling remains in place with the rejection of the petition yesterday.

While Indian gaming can be politically controversial, the Supreme Court rarely touches the issue. Prior to Bay Mills from last year, the last case that directly implicated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was Chickasaw Nation v. US in 2001.

Get the Story:
U.S. Supreme Court won't hear Jim Thorpe, other Oklahoma cases (The Oklahoman 10/6)
High Court Won't Review 10th Circ. Decision On Casino (Law360 10/5)

10th Circuit Decision:
Oklahoma v. Hobia (December 22, 2014)

7th Circuit Decision:
Wisconsin v. Ho-Chunk Nation (April 29, 2015)

Supreme Court Decision:
Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community (May 27, 2014)

Related Stories:
Supreme Court rejects petitions in four more Indian law cases (10/5)
Supreme Court considers petitions in slew of Indian law cases (09/22)
Supreme Court takes up petition in Kialegee Tribal Town dispute (09/01)
Wisconsin asks Supreme Court to rule on Ho-Chunk Nation poker (07/28)
Kialegee Tribal Town granted extension to respond in casino case (05/27)
Supreme Court asks Kialegee Tribal Town for casino case brief (05/18)
Kialegee Tribal Town declines to submit brief in casino litigation (05/04)
Ho-Chunk Nation wins decision on legality of video poker games (04/30)
Supreme Court asked to hear Kialegee Tribal Town gaming case (03/27)

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